There are tiger farms in Laos. This is where Bengal tigers are bred for slaughter just like livestock to feed the insatiable desire from wealthy Chinese who think that eating bits of a tiger and drinking tiger bone wine makes them more sexually potent or cures a range of illnesses.
Laos is also at the heart of Asia’s brutal wildlife trade. Pressure was put on the Laos government to close down the tiger farms. They promised to do so about a year ago. Prince William who is an animal advocate publicly praised the Laos government for making a stand against tiger farms and promising to shut them down. It was hailed as a watershed moment in the battle to save the tiger in the wild. It is stated that tiger farms undermine tiger conservation in a very profound way. They need to be shut down. Unfortunately the amount of money in the business of breeding and killing tigers is a greater motivator than the tiger’s conservation.
In fact, since the promise to shut them down there’s been an increase in the breeding of tigers in Laos. One farm has more than doubled its tiger population since the ban was announced. We are told by the Mail Online that there is a gambling resort close to the border with China called ‘Sin City’ where Chinese tourists can buy a live tiger for £340,000 and ask for it to be slaughtered immediately and eaten. That is the ultimate denigration of the magnificent tiger in my book.
In the capital of Laos, Vientiane, is a five-star hotel which sells tiger bone wine, ivory and bear bile right under the noses of government officials and visiting foreign dignitaries. A well-known tiger trafficker, Vixay Keosavang, lives freely in Laos. There is a US$1 million reward for his arrest but nobody is arresting him. This is probably because he’s passing some of his expensive wealth onto officials who protect him.
Since the declared ban on tiger farms a new tiger farm has been opened in mountainous countryside on the Vietnamese border. Exclusive footage from a drone revealed its existence. Not a single arrest has been made for wildlife smuggling in Laos in recent years. Millions of pounds in foreign aid has been donated to Laos officials to train rangers and to support investigations to try and identify the kingpins in the wildlife trade but to no avail. It’s been a waste of money.
Laos announced in September 2016 that it would shut down tiger farms. Two months later Prince William congratulated officials in front of delegates at a wildlife conference in Vietnam. A spokeswoman for Prince William declined to comment about the revelations. I find that a bit sad to be honest because there is need for someone of his status and standing to decry the Laos government to once again try and force them to take action against the farms. The Laos government also declined to comment when approached by the Daily Mail.
It is ironic that the voracious appetite for tiger parts is driven by, in part, the middle classes from China. They’re becoming richer on the back of consumerism in the West because they buy products manufactured in China. It seems to me that indirectly the West is funding the tiger farms. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the foreign aid donated to Laos is also funnelled into tiger farms, the exact opposite to what the money was intended to achieve.
In a “special economic zone” in northern Laos called the Golden Triangle street signs are in Mandarin and only Chinese or Thai money is accepted. In this 11 mi.² resort 25 tigers and 28 bears are kept in cages where Chinese visitors can buy, as mentioned, a tiger for £340,000. Rhino horn, ivory, elephant skin, tiger bone and tiger teeth are openly sold in shops inside the casino where Chinese customers are ferried from their hotels in Rolls-Royces and Ferraris.
An hour’s flight away from the capital of Laos illegal wildlife products are widely available including at a five-star Chinese hotel a few hundred yards from the country’s Presidential Palace.
To recap, you will find tiger farms doing very well commercially in Laos and you will find them in China as well. They exist because there aren’t enough tigers left in the wild to kill and eat. They undermine conservation in a dramatic manner. I would like to see Prince William taking to the conference stand and making a speech about the failure of the Laos government stamp on tiger farms. They need to be embarrassed. In general the conservation of the Tiger has been and continues to be a failure. Greater pressure needs to be placed upon the Chinese government as well to ban the use of tiger parts in Chinese medicine products and to outlaw the eating of tiger parts and the production of tiger bone wine. Conservation needs to get to the source of the problem and prevent the demand for tiger parts rather than simply protecting tigers in the wild.