Only 25 tigers still live in the wild in Laos. About 700 are held in captivity in five structures, three of which operate with special permits. Products such as feline meat, bones and even live specimens are on sale in luxury hotels in Vientiane and in special Chinese economic zones.
Vientiane (AsiaNews / RFA) - Three tigers were found killed near a protected area in Laos earlier this week, calling attention again to the presence in the country of tiger farms, where the animals are on sale despite the ban on trafficking in wild animals.
An official of the Department of Wildlife Protection in the central province of Khammouane reports that the dead animals were found by foresters in an area near the Nam Theun 2 dam, in the district of Nhommalath. Investigators speculate that traffickers were transporting tigers to border crossings with Vietnam when the animals died.
In a report released last year, the World Wildlife Fund listed three tiger farms now operating in Laos, with one located in Khammouane’s Thakhek district, one in Bolikhamxay province, and the third in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, with the three farms together holding a total of 500 tigers.
All three are privately operated and operate under special permits issued before Laos joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2014, Lao wildlife protection officials told RFA.
And though Laos announced at an international conference in London in September 2016 that it would close all tiger farms within a year, the country’s trade in tigers has since boomed, with at least five farms now in operation. At least 700 tigers are now held in captivity in the farms, with tiger products such as meat, bone, bone wine, and even live tigers now offered for sale at luxury hotels in the capital Vientiane and in Chinese special economic zones (SEZs).
A memo sent on Jan. 5, 2018 by the Lao prime minister’s office to various government departments now calls for better protection of the country’s wildlife and improved cooperation with CITES agreements aimed at blocking trafficking in endangered species. It is estimated that only 25 tigers live in the wild in Laos, most of them in protected forest areas.