Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tigers As Food Or As Pets

Thai police officers with the carcasses of tigers seized in
Hua Hin on Monday. — DM picture

Source: NST

BANGKOK: Their heads hacked from their graceful bodies, this tragic picture shows the fate of tigers in the brutal hands of poachers.

At the rapid rate tigers are poached everyday, for the last 30 years, I would have thought they'd already be extinct by now.

Police seized tiger carcasses weighing up to 250kg from a lorry passing through Hua Hin, a popular tourist resort, in the Prachuap Kiri Khan province on Monday.

The tigers were believed to be smuggled from Malaysia and on their way to China, police said. Two Thai men had been arrested in connection with the smuggling.

In Malaysia, some dead tigers would probably be sold to "specialty restaurants" in Puchong, Selangor or Kahang, Johor.

National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Upai Wayupat told the Bangkok Post daily that the carcasses would be tested to determine if the animals were domesticated or otherwise.

He said the tests, to be conducted at Kasetsart University's Kamphaeng Saen campus, would take up to two weeks.

"If they were captive tigers, officials will investigate which farms they came from," said Upai, adding that breeding tigers was a popular business as wildlife smugglers could fetch as much as a million baht (RM100,000) for a tiger.

He said Thailand was a major transit point for wildlife smuggling.

With profits so high, traffickers are usually armed and ready to do battle -- and China is one of the world's biggest markets for tigers.

It was reported in the BBC that there is a restaurant in Beijing, China that specialises in exotic dishes. It also serves a very unusual delicacy; animal penises.

Last month, Malaysia, where the tigers were believed to have been captured, announced plans to step up its protection of the creatures.

Numbers of tigers have dropped in Malaysia from 3,000 to 500 in the past half-century, mostly because of illegal hunting and human encroachment.

Tiger meat is exported, served at exotic restaurants and used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Asians believe that when one eats tiger's meat, he'll become as fierce and brave as a tiger. President elect Barack Obama has admitted in his book, Dreams From My Father, that his Indonesian stepfather gave him tiger's meat to eat when he was young.

Some even ventured to suggest that if you ate Tiger Woods, you'd become a good golfer. I don't know if this is true, as no one has yet tried to assassinate Tiger Woods to eat him.

It is illegal to kill tigers in Malaysia and the World Wildlife Fund was optimistic that the new 12-year plan to step up protection of the big cats will help boost their population.

To prevent tigers from being extinct, I suggest that the government permit people keeping tigers as pets, but with stringent conditions. For instance, impose a huge license fee on the owners - RM100,000 as year and permit only one tiger per family. This is to ensure that people don't purchase tigers to resell them to restaurants and only those who can really afford be allowed to keep a pet tiger. This may not be an ideal solution to the poaching problem, but it is feasible enough to keep enough tigers alive, if not in the wild, as least in good homes. In east Malaysia, rich towkays are already keeping endangered animals as pets.

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