Coronavirus: Horror tiger bone trade may remain despite China’s wild animal vow over bug

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than a million people worldwide and led to 54,045 deaths, as of midday Friday. The world’s eyes have since descended upon China, where the first COVID-19 cases were believed to have been detected. It’s currently understood that the outbreak started as early as November last year in the wet markets of Wuhan. It was in those markets, some suggest, where the deadly virus spilled over from animals to humans. Since this controversial revelation, China announced plans to change the law by banning wild animal consumption and the trade itself. But BBC documentarian Aldo Kane raised concerns to about rules not applying to the brutal multi-million pound tiger bone product industry.

As more evidences point to coronavirus originating in China’s wet markets, the country has considered changing the eating habits of some within the nation.

The National People’s Congress banned the trade of “illegal wildlife” in a bid to “eliminate the bad habits of wild food eating” in late February. 

Information continues to suggest conditions of the wet markets – where animals are kept dead and alive in close proximity – being responsible for the outbreak.

Despite the declaration from China’s ruling body, it is yet to become law, with some experts believing legislation may happen within three months, while others doubt it will ever be enforced.

Some have disputed the claims about the wet markets being at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic – and many are still reserving judgement.

They include Dr Syra Madad, a Special Pathogens Expert, who featured on the Netflix show ‘Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak’.

She stated that these areas are perfect for pandemics like coronavirus to spread but admitted the “verdict is still out”.

Dr Madad told “Different reports out there show the virus was circulating in China before December, but it’s still a guess for anyone.

“Despite this, wet markets are hotspots and breeding grounds for infectious disease outbreaks by having all perfect ingredients – close corridors, different animals being kept dead and alive, poor hygiene or sanitations, and more.

“All of these features can ignite an infectious disease outbreak hotspot, so it’s not surprising they can start and proliferate in those areas.” 

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While the Chinese government is still considering the best way to handle the ban on wildlife consumption, other cities have taken matters into their own hands.

Shenzhen, in the country’s southeastern region, announced in a statement on Thursday it will outlaw eating dogs and cats as of May 1.

China’s ban in February, which is yet to be brought into law, prohibited the “hunting, trading, transportation, and consumption of wild animals”.

The ruling further stated that the public are now “forbidden to eat ‘terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value’”.

But animal rights and anti-poaching campaigners fear that not all wild animals will be included within future laws.

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They include former-Royal Marine Aldo Kane who produced BBC documentary ‘Tigers: Hunting the Traffickers’, which was released in March. 

His tumultuous travels exposed the illegal trade of tiger bone wine, glue and other products in south east Asia – as well as the barbaric treatment suffered by big cats. 

Mr Kane told “The interesting thing about China banning all trade on wildlife is that it doesn’t change the facts, specifically for tigers bred in captivity.

“They do not fall under that bracket – it’s a moot point – they are still doing what they have done before, as far as the fact that tigers are still being preyed on.”

Among the many shocking revelations exposed in Mr Kane’s documentary was how dead tiger cubs were being frozen and transported over the border for the criminal trade.

He also revealed the harrowing conditions tigers were being kept in while waiting to die on big cat “death row” – hidden in underground basements.

The barbaric trade sees rich businessmen select the tiger they want to be slaughtered as part of an illegal “luxury item” business. 

Mr Kane said: “Traffickers pedal the products as status symbols – like posh shoes, a new car or a new watch. 

“There is a pride in being able to afford this wild animal but also the myth that it increases sexual prowess in men – ‘if you consume the beast, you will become the beast.’”

He added that traditional chinese medicine has disowned these about tiger products – and that purchasers now use it as a “sign of stature”, often consuming it with alcohol.

Mr Kane shed light on the dark underbelly of illegal poaching and trading within China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Specifically with tigers, his team obtained footage showing the big cats being murdered by electrocution or drowning and then stripped of all flesh.

The bones are “then either boiled down into glue over three days” or stewed with wine for as long as eight years.

The documentary revealed how one woman sold tiger glue for $700 (£565) per 100 gram block of the dark black solid substance.

It was claimed that 12 pieces of that size could be made from one adult tiger – the financial equivalent of $84,000 (£67,800) for every big cat killed.

Mr Kane claimed that some big cats raised on tiger farms and zoos could have been sold into the illegal trade too.

Currently there are fewer than 4,000 tigers in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund – but in captive facilities in Asia there are double that number.

The documentarian explained that wild tigers are already on the brink of extinction and are being persecuted to the point where they will no longer exist outside captivity.

While some activists hold out hope that the trade and consumption of big cat products will come to an end in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Kane has his doubts. 

He added: “Coronavirus may or may not have a positive effect for wildlife in China and southeast Asia – but if a ban is put on wildlife products that will help. 

“From my opinion, if China was to step in line then other countries would follow because it has power over them due to economical reasons.

“But we know from what we’ve seen and investigated in the documentary that what China says and does are two very different things.”

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