ANIMAL SMUGGLING

Police rescue endangered Bengal tiger cub from suspected Chinese smugglers

Six men arrested in Sanmenxia, Henan province, after allegedly buying the animal for about HK$312,000 from online dealers, say police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 3:32pm

Police in central China rescued a Bengal tiger cub from a group of six suspected smugglers on Wednesday.

Although the endangered tigers are protected by Chinese law, the smugglers “bought” the tiger cub for 250,000 yuan (about HK$312,000) from online “dealers”, police in Henan province, central China, said on their official Sina Weibo website on Thursday.

Police in Sanmenxia, where the cub was rescued, told the South China Morning Post that they were still investigating the case, but did not know where the cub had been smuggled from, or how the suspected smugglers had “bought” it online.

“The case has not been solved; that’s all I can say for the moment,” a policewoman, identified only as Zhang, told the Post.

However, one local Chinese newspaper reported a policeman saying that the tiger cub had been smuggled into Sanmenxia from Jiaozuo.

Initial reports said that Henan police had arrested all six suspected members of the smuggling gang. But another Sanmenxia police officer said that one alleged smuggler, from Shandong, was still on the run.

All trade in tigers – including the poaching, killing, or sale and trade in tiger parts – has been banned in China since 1993; the country classifies them as a grade one protected species.

However, illegal trade in tigers remains a serious problem.

In March the Post reported that police had caught a gang of men believed to have smuggled up to 20 live big cats into the southern Guangdong city of Zhanjiang to be slaughtered and then cooked and eaten for the entertainment of businessmen and government officials.

Trade in poached tiger skins, meat and bones also continues; tiger bones are still used in traditional Chinese medicine and as a tonic for men.

Bengal tigers are classified as an “engendered” species, with fewer than 2,500 left alive in the world, says the WWF, the international conservation organisation. The tigers are found primarily in India, with a smaller population in Bangladesh and China, the WWF says.

Hong Kong once had its own separate species of tiger, the South China Tiger. It was killed off in large numbers in the 1950s and is believed to be extinct in the wild. There have been no official sightings since the early 1970s.