Author(s): Gratwicke B, Mills J, Dutton A, Gabriel G, Long B,
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Abstract A heated debate has recently emerged between tiger farmers and conservationists about the potential consequences of lifting the ban on trade in farmed tiger products in China. This debate has caused unfounded speculation about the extent of the potential market for tiger products. To fill this knowledge gap, we surveyed 1880 residents from a total of six Chinese cities to understand Urban Chinese tiger consumption behavior, knowledge of trade issues and attitudes towards tiger conservation. We found that 43\% of respondents had consumed some product alleged to contain tiger parts. Within this user-group, 71\% said that they preferred wild products over farmed ones. The two predominant products used were tiger bone plasters (38\%) and tiger bone wine (6.4\%). 88\% of respondents knew that it was illegal to buy or sell tiger products, and 93\% agreed that a ban in trade of tiger parts was necessary to conserve wild tigers. These results indicate that while Urban Chinese people are generally supportive of tiger conservation, there is a huge residual demand for tiger products that could resurge if the ban on trade in tiger parts is lifted in China. We suspect that the current supply of the market is predominantly met by fakes or substitutes branded as tiger medicines, but not listing tiger as an ingredient. We suggest that the Traditional Chinese Medicine community should consider re-branding these products as bone-healing medicines in order to reduce the residual demand for real tiger parts over the long-term. The lifting of the current ban on trade in farmed tiger parts may cause a surge in demand for wild tiger parts that consumers say are better. Because of the low input costs associated with poaching, wild-sourced parts would consistently undercut the prices of farmed tigers that could easily be laundered on a legal market. We therefore recommend that the Chinese authorities maintain the ban on trade in tiger parts, and work to improve the enforcement of the existing ban.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Applied Microbiology: Open Access