CONSERVATION group Tiger Trust has launched an investigation in Hong Kong into the packaging of banned bone products. As part of an international campaign to save the threatened species, the UK-based organisation is also establishing a regional office here. Chairman of the trust, Michael Day, says a secretly recorded film reveals China's continuing role in the tiger trade. He said Hong Kong is one of the four main outlets for Chinese-made medical products containing tiger bone - principally plasters. Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea are the others. Demand is high. Chinese consumers are willing to pay vast sums for wild tiger products in the belief that such medicine enhances their physical and sexual prowess. The conservationist said a government factory in Harbin, in China's northeast, produces up to 1.5 million plasters a day, most of which are for export. ''The factory should have been closed down but is still churning them out,'' Mr Day said. ''China shouldn't be producing them and Hong Kong shouldn't be importing them. ''We strongly suspect a lot of repackaging is done here before they are exported to Chinese communities around the world.'' He said the plasters arrive from Harbin and other production centres in China labelled as ''very strong bone plaster'' and then, in a Hong Kong factory, are put in new bags which clearly state they are tiger bone. ''We have yet to track this factory down,'' Mr Day said. ''Possibly up to 2.5 million plasters are coming to Hong Kong to be repackaged every day and then shipped out.'' He said Tiger Trust expects to find the factory quite quickly, although he did not reveal any details of the search. ''It [the search] will probably drive the people underground or they will probably dump the stuff,'' he said. Tiger Trust's new Hong Kong office will contribute to its ongoing effort to save the Amur or Siberian tiger in Russia's east, of which only 150 survive. Mr Day said 50 were killed last year. He estimates only 5,000 tigers are still alive in the wild and blames the use of animal parts in traditional oriental medicine for their demise. Last year alone, official records showed China sold 1.5 tonnes of raw tiger bones to South Korea. According to the latest research, tigers are being killed at a rate of two per day in Asia, with as many as 500 a year being poached in India and then smuggled into southwest China.