TRUSSED and tethered between the bars of the cage, the tiger shown above only had minutes to live. Dozens of Taiwanese watched as the animal's throat was slit. The blood was mixed with whisky and drunk by the cupful for ''strength''. By the time the tiger was dead, about 20 minutes later, its eyes, penis, bones, skull and blood would have been auctioned to the highest bidder. The ritual was legal in Taiwan when these pictures were taken in a town to the north of Kaohsiung in the mid-1980s. Today it is not - yet still it goes on. More than 80 live tigers have been found in Taiwan, despite the country having signed CITES in 1989. Tiger Trust investigators recently found a farm in Taipei's suburbs where the animals were kept in tiny cages and expected to breed, before being sold to chemists and restaurants. One four-month-old cub was valued at $3,600. Restaurants selling genuine tiger bone soup were easy to find. One, the Precious Healthy Soup Bowl, was caught selling a huge bowl of soup containing two penises, sufficient for 15 people, for $6,000. Of 135 chemists visited in Taipei, stocks of tiger bone were found in two out of three, costing up to $6,000 for 85 grams of ground bone. In the capital's infamous tourist night market, known as Snake Alley, one trader shows off the alleged potency by having ''tiger blood-induced'' intercourse with a prostitute in front of a crowd of people. The demand that exists in Hong Kong was illustrated by Sunday Morning Post inquiries which found three out of five Tsim Sha Tsui pharmacies offering to sell tiger penises. The value of the trade, and the extortion involved, was shown by the variation in price: between $1,200 and $5,000. Animal experts believe the material openly on sale in the shops is fake, but provides a convenient cover for the genuine article. Young, live tigers have been found in the territory, presumed to be for use in banquets. Other reports of top-secret feasts occasionally surface. The Kam Bo Medicine Company in the Champagne shopping arcade, Kimberley Road, displays a box in its front window containing three different kinds of animal penis, including an alleged tiger's. Inside, the sales assistant agreed to show us the products but was reluctant to answer questions and refused to give his business card. The tiger part cost $1,200. He said: ''They come from China. I don't know exactly where, but they are definitely real. I get them from a trader on Hong Kong side; there are many of them there.'' It is widely believed there are factories in the territory producing thousands of imitation tiger penises from the guts and parts of other animals. The Kamsun Medicine company in Haiphong Road was asking $5,000 per tiger penis but refused to let us view the product. The Wing Fat Dispensary in Mody Road was charging $2,000. As the myth is perpetuated and the tiger gets closer to extinction, so the price soars and the traders look to new areas of wilderness to plunder. The mountains of northeast Russia have become a major sourcing area. Last year 200 tigers are known to have been killed in the region and exchanged for rifles, cash, used cars and jeeps at the Chinese border. The poachers then use the vehicles and guns to plunder deeper into the tigers' territory. Once in China, the animals are processed in one of 1,000 unregistered factories around Harbin, before being posted or transported to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, into Hong Kong and Taiwan. Other sources include Nepal, India and Thailand. In Nepal, tribesmen are paid a pittance to catch and kill the tigers, which they then transport across China. During its investigation, the Sunday Morning Post was offered complete tiger skeletons by Tibetan tribesmen in Zhuhai, for $6,000. From Thailand, where peasant villagers are paid $1,000 a tiger, the animals are usually shipped to either Hong Kong or Taiwan, where the skeletons sell for $36,000. Despite China's recently adopted legislation, it is openly being flouted in Harbin, where staff in several chemists showed the Sunday Morning Post sacks full of bones. We were even told of one government store where we could buy three complete tiger skeletons.