THE OFFER is unique. ’Buytigers’, a website, offers sale of tiger cubs online. The cost for a package including a female tiger cub of five months, an ivory collar and three tiger toys is US $13400. And, the tiger pack is sent in ships to any part of the world – seems unrealistic. The website has attracted attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international organisation that fights for natural living of animals.
The Indian chapter of PETA has claimed a thorough investigation on the website and its offer and urged the Central government to look into the masterminds behind. Anuradha Sawhney, the Indian chief functionary of PETA wrote to the Ministry of Environment and Forest on September 9: "We were shocked about the claims of the website ’buytigers’, which says it sells five-months-old female tigers."
The website with pictures of tigers and tiger cubs with two anonymous characters claims, "It was a dream until yesterday, now it’s true. Directly from our Indian breedings, we give you the possibility to buy a tiger online and without any trouble...." Claiming that "Our stores provide you the most original pets ever," the website boasts of continuing this business since 1984. They also claim to provide a breeding manual for tigers for the prospective buyers. The manual contains everything about tiger including their diet, training and health. The website says that the tigers, which are on sale, are completely trained to be nice with humans. They can eat meat and respond to basilar voice orders.
PETA on its site said, "This can be a scam or just a kid playing to claim that they sell tiger cubs; it just sounds too weird. We at PETA India, have already notified the government about this suspicious website. It doesn’t have any contact numbers or physical addresses. It just has an email ID, which requests to contact them for further information."
PETA Indian chapter has already emailed in the ID, but failed to receive a reply. Sawhney in her statement has thrown a challenge to the tiger sellers to see how big a scam this is and if they are really selling tigers and that too from India.
Tigers are protected in India under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Anyone breeding tigers in captivity is subject to rigorous imprisonment. "If anyone has more information on this please notify us or our head office through our website," Sawhney has urged.
The specialists in animal trade however, are suspicious and assume that the effort may not be simply a hoax as in the international market the supplies of wild animals’ body parts are made mainly from India, Nepal and Myanmar. However, a country like Russia is no less behind in this illegal and inhuman trade.
According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report in August 2007, customs and the frontier service in the Primorskii province of the Russian far-east have seized illegal wildlife products bound for China. The seizures included 480 brown and black bear paws, a Siberian tiger pelt and bones, Siberian tiger parts and 20kg of wild ginseng. Earlier in January 2007, another seizure included 360kg of bear paws, three Siberian tiger skins and bones, and 531 Saiga horns. From Khanka, the most notorious stretch of the Sino-Russian border, frontier guards also confiscated 130 bear paws.
In July, Vladivostok customs officials found hidden tiger bones while checking and processing official papers of a Northern Korean national who was leaving Russia. Most of the seized products, except the Saiga horns, came from the Russian far-east. One pelt of the tiger sells at 8000 pounds in China, Indonesia and Sumatra. Teeth, claws, skin, whiskers and bones are on sale in one in 10 of the 326 retail outlets in 28 cities and towns across Sumatra, mainly in Medan and Pancur Batu. In Indonesia, the big cat’s body parts are being sold openly. Tiger bones are used in medicines. However, the demand for tiger skin is sky high because it has high demand in fashion markets.
While people from across the globe are waking up against illegal poaching of tigers and efforts are on to save the tiger, ‘Traffic’, a wildlife trade monitor has come out with this alarming truth. The report titled ‘The Tiger Trade Revisited in Sumatra’ found tiger parts being sold by goldsmiths and in souvenir and traditional medicine shops.
The situation is worse in China followed by Taiwan and Hong Kong. A recent ‘Traffic’ survey has proved that the Internet sites in mainland China are advertising in favour of threatened and protected wildlife products everyday and thus creating a fresh threat to the wildlife population, particularly, tiger, elephant, turtles and rhinoceros. The study surveyed popular auction websites, Yahoo and eBay, in addition to several independent websites with wildlife trade themes in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Auction and theme websites in all three markets were monitored for eight months, with auction websites monitored weekly, then later on, bi-weekly. Over the course of the study, surveyors identified 4291 unique advertisements for wildlife products. Auction sites from mainland China yielded the highest number of advertisements, followed by Taiwan and Hong Kong (refer: Tiger number falls but tiger market grows/merinews.com/dated March 15, 2008).
Meanwhile, ’the guardian’ website has reported that China is on its way to lift ban on the sale of the tiger bones after 14 years because China is the biggest market of traditional medicines made from tiger body parts and market forces from domestic tiger breeders are too strong to resist, Wang Wei, deputy director of the department of wildlife conservation of the state forestry administration was reported as saying in the domestic media. Commercial tiger breeders rear about 1000 new cubs a year and they have now in the captivity around 5000 tigers.