Taiwan’s efforts in the field of tiger conservation have been a big success, but more can be done to protect the big cats, a Council of Agriculture official said.
Kuan Li-hao (管立豪), director of the Forestry Bureau’s Conservation Division, said during the 1970s, Taiwan had a problem with the importation of live tigers or tiger-related products because no law sanctioned such practices.
However, with growing awareness and increased global efforts to save endangered species, Taiwan enacted the Wildlife Conservation Act in June 1989. This outlawed all imports and exports of wildlife, including live tigers and tiger-related products, except for the purpose of scientific research or exhibition, as in zoos.
Violaters face a maximum fine of NT$1.5 million (US$46,000) and five years imprisonment.
“Taiwanese authorities take the smuggling of tigers and tiger parts very seriously. It has been years since our last case,” Kuan said
Public vigilance has been a major force in policing what has been a national effort but more can be done, he said.
Some Taiwanese still bring back medicine made with tiger parts from China, which is also illegal. Further increasing public awareness is the best way to deal with this problem, Kuan said.
Tiger body parts have long been considered a potent natural elixir in traditional Chinese medicine as well as symbols of luck and prominence in various Asian cultures.
It is widely believed that alcoholic tonics made from tiger penises are a powerful aphrodisiac able to improve virility in men and that tiger bones, when ground into a powder, can treat rheumatism and headaches.
The government does not have figures for the value of the black market in tiger parts in Taiwan, but officials say that almost all so-called tiger penises sold in traditional medicine shops today are in fact from bulls or dogs.
Each year, the council provides funding of between NT$10 million and NT$20 million to Taiwanese conservation groups, such as the Society of Wildlife and Nature and other international organizations to help with the worldwide conservation work.
There are 54 tigers in three zoos in Taiwan, as well as in the government-sponsored tiger haven run by the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Kuan said.