If you didn’t already know what they were, these four tiny, frozen tiger cubs would be virtually unrecognizable. Frozen solid and densely compacted, the baby tiger carcasses were confiscated by authorities Sunday from a wildlife smuggler in northern Vietnam after the suspect allegedly tried to sell them on Facebook.
Tigers are an endangered species; but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop illegal wildlife traffickers from killing the animals and selling them on the black market. (The suspect in this case is thought to be part of a larger smuggling ring.) Tigers and other animals may be taken from the wild, or in some instances are kept on cramped, decrepit breeding facilities where they nearly starve for lack of proper feeding.
Tiger bones may be boiled to make tiger wine, which can sell for $500 a bottle. The flesh, bones and claws may also be sold for supposed medicinal uses.
Sadly, the price for a precious tiger life can be a lot lower than you might think. In this case, a buyer was poised to purchase all four frozen tiger cubs for just $359 (VND$8 million). That may go a lot further in Vietnam than in the United States, but is dwarfed by some wildlife sales, which can run tens of thousands of dollars or more.
As long as people are willing to pay for wildlife, black market trafficking will never disappear. With increased public awareness about the cruelty and environmental effects — not to mention the bogus claims of medicinal benefits — one can only hope that demand dies off so that tigers no longer suffer this fate.