VICE Profiles: Backyard Exotics
Wildlife trafficking is estimated to be a $19 billion per year global business, surpassed only by black-market sales and trafficking of drugs, humans, and firearms.
In the United States, regulation of private ownership of exotic animals is determined by each state, allowing for loopholes and oversight. Animals are bought and traded through auctions, backyard breeders, illicit online sales and more. The industry is growing right in our backyards.
VICE travels to Ohio to rescue a cougar, then to Texas for an exotic livestock auction and undercover visit to a gaming ranch where the animals are sold and hunted for up to $15,000 a piece.
In China, Tigers Are Farmed Like Chickens
Tigers are some of the biggest victims of the wildlife trade, with the rare cats’ bones coveted for traditional medicine and their coats prized as rugs. In Vietnam, tiger parts are so valuable that they make better bribes than cash. And in China, tiger parts are in such high demand that they are being farmed like chickens.
According to a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency, China’s tiger farms are huge, with thousands of captive tigers being bred for slaughter. That’s possible because China has essentially legalized the tiger trade, which is troubling considering that China is a signatory of the CITES treaty, which bans international trade of tiger parts (along with parts of other animals, like rhinos and elephants) and calls for domestic trade prohibitions.
But far more troubling is the EIA’s conclusion that China’s tiger farms are actually stimulating demand for wild tigers. The report states that there are somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 captive tigers in China, a population that boomed from just a few dozen in the 80s thanks to favorable legal policies as well as funding from China’s State Forestry Administration. (As the Times noted in 2010, China’s largest tiger farm is run by the SFA.) Meanwhile, China’s wild tiger population has plummeted to just a few dozen individuals, down from a high of around 4,000 in the late 1940s.