This is a picture of the Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village in Guilin, China. The establishment houses over 1500 captive tigers which is the largest concentration of tigers in the world (perhaps more than half of what is thought to remain in the wild). Despite being littered with billboards declaring the park's dedication to protecting wildlife, many of the animals are skinny, underfed, and covered with sores. The reason for this, as revealed in the stunning expose by Richard Jones in 2010, the tigers are far more valuable dead than alive.
The Wildlife Park was founded in 1993 with only 60 tigers by Chinese millionaire Zhou Weisen. Under the guise of conservation and re-population, the park launched intensive breeding initiatives that quickly raised their numbers to the hundreds, then thousands (The park's current population of 1500 tigers is more than 2500% of the original group). And yet, the sad fact is that many of these tigers will never be rehabilitated. Some tigers are kept in open cages for display, others are locked in small concrete enclosures in perpetual darkness.
Here, they will spend their lives in concrete cells wasting away from malnutrition, neglect, and illnesses until they die. The nightmarish "tour" of Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village ends with a trip to the establishment's "Science Hall", where a cheery salesperson (often a young woman) will offer to sell visitors six- and nine- year vintages of tiger wine at at £60, £92 and £185 a bottle. As quoted by Jones, "We have more than 1,500 tigers,' she says. 'There is no lack of raw materials for us. There are a few hundred dead tigers lying in our freezers. I can promise you that we sell only authentic tiger products." This response is significant for two reasons the first being that it displays the flippantly callous attitudes of the staff for the well being of their tigers, the second (even worse) would seem to imply that Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village is not much of a wildlife park, as much as it is the highly publicized "cover" for a tiger farm.
Tiger wine is a medicinal tonic made by distilling the bones of tigers in rice wine/spirits for a long period of time. The resulting concoction is said to be an elixir that can cure arthritis, relieve rheumatism, and even prolong life! Understandably, it is also one of the most expensive! The bones of a single tiger, which might weight about 55 pounds, can sell for as much as 250,000 pounds to the right buyer. As one might imagine, seedy entrepreneurs and greedy businessmen are all to quick to exploit this myth which has resulted in what is believed to be one of the largest scale trade of exotic animal products in history!
Tiger Bone Wine is a non-elixir, based upon the erroneous claim that the distillation process can capture the "essence" or "strength" of the tiger. Scientifically speaking, these claims hold no merit as the bones of tigers may be said to be essentially the same to the bones of cows, or sheep, or even humans! They are all made out of the same biological substance and have no medical properties to speak of! Indeed, this fact has been recognized by several progressive traditional medicine practitioners in China who have come up with herbal alternatives to this supposedly "miracle" cure.
Although the Chinese government have recognized tigers as endangered animals and have implemented laws against the killing of tigers, there are no laws against the re-appropriation of tiger parts from animals that have supposedly died of "natural causes".
This is the issue! Improper legislation and blatant loopholes in conservation laws provide seedy business men ample opportunities for exploitation. Couple that with a desperate public willing to pay through the nose for a mythical elixir and you have an ethical, environmental disaster waiting to happen! This needs to change! It's time to start educating ourselves!
AnimalAsia article (complete with details of the "entertainment program" of the establishment)
TripAdvisor comments and suggestions dating back to 2011 to March 5th 2013.
Undercover investigation video on Youtube from 2010
note. as of 2012 Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village in Guilin, China was still fairly popular among tourists (despite campaigns and lobbying by various internal and external parties) on websites such as TripAdvisor, with one visitor from Melbourne even commenting that the park is "Sensational because you will not see stuff like that in our oh so politically correct west which panders to the minority and aims to spoil our fun by subjecting us to a nanny state."