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Are Chinese Zoo Animals Killed Just to be Stuffed?

stuffed lion

Chinese zoo animals may be facing early deaths due to a burgeoning market for stuffed wildlife.

A new report from the investigative newspaper, Southern Weekend has revealed that an increased demand for luxury home décor, in the form of stuffed exotic animals, is encouraging zoos to kill off their animals and sell their pelts to state-licensed taxidermy firms, reports Substance Digital.

Stuffed wildlife as luxury gifts, especially preserved carcasses of tigers, deer, monkeys and elephants, are growing in popularity with businesspeople as well as government officials. Because of this higher demand, there seems to be an increase in the “natural death and loss” of Chinese zoo animals, Substance Digital reports.

“Zoos are the most important part of the chain,” the head of one taxidermy firm told Southern Weekend. “The official price for a live tiger is sometimes less than 20,000 or 30,000 yuan. If you can have it die a ‘natural death,’ [zoos] can make a lot more money.” (20,000 to 30,000 yuan equals around $3,268 to $4,902.)

And a lot more money is certainly what both zoos and taxidermists are making. A Siberian tiger, for instance, can be bought from a zoo for 50,000 or 60,000 yuan ($8,171 or $9,805) and then be sold as a pelt on the black market for 350,000 to 600,000 yuan ($57,197 to $98,052), according to China Dialogue. A “finished” Siberian stuffed tiger can even sell for up to 3 million yuan ($490,260).

This data is disturbing on its own but is made even more alarming by the fact that only about 400 to 500 Siberian tigers (also known as Amur tigers) are left in the wild, with just 14 or so of them considered an “effective population,” a group which measures the genetic diversity of the species.

Regulations on Chinese zoos are known to be quite loose and little oversight is maintained. Back in 2010 at the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo, 11 Siberian tigers died of starvation in small cages. And this year in January at the Rural Grand View Garden, zoo keepers found most of their crocodiles dead as visitors had thrown trash and rocks at the hibernating animals.

The laws on buying and selling wild animals for zoos and circuses are also rather lax. Except in “extraordinary circumstances,” zoos are not considered responsible for the death of an animal. All they have to do is report the time and approximate cause of death, reports China Dialogue.

As a result, it seems that “natural death and loss” is plaguing zoo animals across the nation. According to China Daily, at least 80% of animals entering the taxidermy market come from zoos.

In various parts of the world, zoological parks are thought to be places of conservation, but in China this certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Animals are again falling victim to the money-hungry hands of humans. With time, will precious animal species be removed from wild lands for good and seen only in museums and homes as stuffed props?

We welcome all comments about this issue. Please share your views about it below!

Image source: Christopher / Flickr

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