ABOUT 90 percent of Thailand’s tiger farms and private zoos are suspected to be involved in the illegal wildlife trade, said non-profit animal welfare organization, Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand’s (WFFT) founder, Edwin Wiek.
During a seminar on Monday titled ‘Tigers: From Cages to Black Market”, Wiek said that the 137 tigers seized at the recent raid of the notorious Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi only represented less than 10 percent of the endangered wildlife traded in the black market in Thailand.
The raid on the Tiger Temple uncovered layer upon layer of corruption and involvement in illegal wildlife breeding and trade, with particularly gruesome finds of dozens of frozen and contained tiger cub bodies.
According to the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Wiek noted that the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has earned high commendations from wildlife conservation groups globally for its work.
He added that since 2007, the number of tigers in the country has increased from 940 to over 1,400. This raises suspicions that about 90 percent of tiger farms and private zoos in Thailand may be involved with black market trading of endangered wildlife.
At the seminar, which was held in the Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Wiek revealed that every time a tiger dies in Thailand, illegal traders would be quickly notified to pick up the carcass. Its hide would be removed and various organs and body parts separated for sale to neighboring countries.
— Edwin Wiek (@EdwinWiek) June 20, 2016
A 100-kilogram tiger could earn illegal traders anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 baht (about US$2,800 to US$5,600), with male tigers being valued much higher. However, Wiek said that once outside the Thai border, the price of the animal would soar up to four times higher.
Wildlife NGOs have been calling for legal action against such activities to end tiger farming and trade for years, which Wiek also suggested at the seminar.
A collective letter released by the Environmental Investigation Agency and 17 other organizations in January said tiger parts and skins are in highest demand in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. The Chinese government authorized a domestic trade in the skins of tigers bred in captivity to be used as luxury decor and taxidermy.
According to the letter, “Tigers are not just killed for their skins; their bones are used to brew ‘tiger bone wine’, their meat is sold as a delicacy, and their teeth and claws are sold as charms.”