Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 5 News List

CITES says China farms still serving tiger meat

AP , THE HAGUE

Chinese tiger farms came under renewed scrutiny when wildlife officials confirmed that a team of reporters had been served tiger meat at a farm's restaurant.

The report came on the eve of what was expected to be a heated debate on tiger conservation at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) yesterday.

Investigative reporters with British television network ITN visited Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain farm in Guilin, China, in February and sent some of the meat they were offered at the farm to a Chinese laboratory. DNA tests established it was tiger meat, ITN reported.

The farm's owner called the analysis fraudulent, but CITES senior enforcement officer John Sellar told delegates on Tuesday that a respected US laboratory had reviewed the Chinese test and said its findings "appear to be valid."

"We expect the issue to generate significant debate over whether China should continue allowing unlimited breeding by private owners, who then claim financial pressure and push to reopen trade to pay for their operations," said Steven Broad, executive director of wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC.

The CITES conference yesterday was to discuss a policy paper on tiger conservation that calls for more cross-border cooperation on tiger conservation. International trade in tigers and tiger parts is banned by CITES.

Conservationists fear that Chinese authorities are being pushed by wealthy investors in tiger farms to end the 14-year domestic ban on tiger product sales.

Such a move would be disastrous for the world's estimated 5,000 wild tigers, they said.

"It would mean the end of the species," said Susan Lieberman, of wildlife lobby group WWF.

"They have done a great job on reducing demand [in China]," Lieberman said. "People in China know it is illegal now. The moment it becomes legal you will stimulate increased demand."

Tiger products are used in Chinese traditional medicines, but many in the industry have found alternatives since the ban came into force.

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