Tigers punched for fun at horrifying sanctuaries in China
by Lacy Cooke
Even today, when global organizations like the World Wildlife Fund have brought conservation to the forefront of conversation, animal abuse still happens. Some of it is covered up by organizations posing as “sanctuaries” that do good. Wildlife photographer Paul Hilton recently shared an Instagram photograph taken at one such “sanctuary,” the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in China, of a tourist cheerfully punching a tiger for fun.
Hilton snapped the photo of a tiger being hit a few years ago, but said the practice continues today. At the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, tigers are drugged and then punched. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) estimates there are 200 tiger farms in China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, where unspeakable crimes against animals are being perpetrated.
Not only are tigers hit for entertainment at tiger farms, they’re often “speed bred:” tiger babies are taken away from mothers instantly after birth, and the mothers are forced to breed again swiftly. The babies are often used for selfies. Tigers are also killed so their bones can be used for tiger wine, which many believe acts as an aphrodisiac. There are up to 8,000 tigers forced to live in these horrific tiger farms, while only around 3,890 tigers still live in the wild.
The issue of tiger abuse is by no means limited to Asia. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), about 5,000 tigers live in captivity in the United States. But most of these tigers aren’t in zoos – 95 percent are “privately owned,” often by people who have no idea how to properly care for them. Further, “tiger encounters” – where people can pose for pictures with tigers, often young cubs – mean there’s motivation for people to own and breed tigers. When tigers used for selfies grow up, it’s more difficult for the illegal owners to feed them and the tigers often end up in the hands of illegal wildlife traders who sell them in parts.
WWF started a petition to Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, to “fully ban public contact with tigers in the US.” WWF policy experts say action in the United States will send a “positive signal” to governments in Asia considering what to do about the appalling tiger farms.