Vietnamese man caught trying to smuggle tiger parts

Vietnamese officials with the confiscated tiger skin and bones at a border station in northern Quang Ninh province on Wednesday. The suspect (in blue shirt) was arrested for trying to smuggle the items across the border into China.
Vietnamese officials with the confiscated tiger skin and bones at a border station in northern Quang Ninh province on Wednesday. The suspect (in blue shirt) was arrested for trying to smuggle the items across the border into China.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HANOI • A Vietnamese man has been arrested for attempting to smuggle an entire tiger skin and bones into China, police in the south-east Asian country - where the illegal wildlife trade flourishes - said yesterday.

Vietnam is both a consumption hub and popular trading route for illegal animal products destined for other parts of Asia, usually China.

Border guards in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province arrested the man on Wednesday. He was carrying a full tiger hide and five bones, weighing 5.4kg.

"The man attempted to bring the tiger items across the border," an officer at a border station in Quang Ninh told Agence France-Presse yesterday, requesting anonymity.

A tiger skin can fetch up to US$6,000 (S$8,100) in Vietnam and as much as US$10,000 in China, according to Vietnamese media. The bones can sell for US$1,000 per 100g in Vietnam.

Tiger remains are highly prized in Vietnam, where the animal's skin is used for decoration, the teeth and claws for jewellery, and the bones, whiskers and paws for traditional medicine.

Tiger bones are commonly boiled down and mixed with rice wine to make an elixir believed to treat arthritis and promote strength, which scientists have disputed.

 
 

The illicit trade of tiger parts, along with ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales, has shifted online in recent years, making sellers harder to catch despite government vows to crack down on the industry.

Wild tiger populations have dropped globally by 97 per cent over the past century, and the animals are categorised as an endangered species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Tigers used to roam Vietnam's forests, but the last time the animal was photographed in the wild was in 1997, and it is not known how many remain today.

It is legal to raise tigers as pets in Vietnam with official permission, and there are an estimated 240 kept in homes and zoos across the country, according to the Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) conservation group.

This week's seizure is not the first haul of tiger parts in Vietnam. Five frozen tigers were discovered in a freezer in central Nghe An province in 2017, with their skins intact but internal organs removed.

ENV recorded more than 630 cases of illegal marketing, trading and storage of tiger parts in Vietnam last year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Vietnamese man caught trying to smuggle tiger parts'. Print Edition | Subscribe