Tiger Cub’s Death Leap Exposes Black Market Breeding Ring

Three local officials are fined $450 each for illegally raising endangered Siberian tigers.

(Photo: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Mar 19, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

It started with the unbelievable story of a tiger cub plummeting 11 stories to its death from a building in a Chinese port city.

It ends with three government officials, all members of the People’s Congress (the city legislature) of Qingdao, resigning from their posts for illegally breeding and raising endangered Siberian tigers. Each man has also been fined 3,000 yuan—about $450—but the three face no further charges, according to the South China Morning Post.

Over time the men possessed at least 11 endangered Siberian tigers between them. But they might never have been discovered if not for the harrowing death of the seven-month-old cub in February.

Possibly spooked by the Lunar New Year fireworks, state media reported, the tiger cub escaped from its cage on the roof of the 11-story apartment building and fell to its death. The cub was found in the parking lot below the building the next morning.

The ensuing investigation revealed that Yang Wenzheng, a local government official, had been housing tigers in steel cages on the roof of his apartment building.

“I was raising two tigers—not long after they were born I started taking care of them, just like they were my children,” said Yang, according to the news site Dahe Online.

It turned out that Yang was raising the cubs for another man, Cui Jinguang, a manager of a mountain park who could not afford to pay for all of the tigers under his care, according to the South China Morning Post.

A third government official, Zhang Fucai, who worked in the forestry sector, was also found to be illegally raising an adult tiger.

While the three men have resigned from office and been fined, they will not be prosecuted further for raising tigers without permits, state media reported.

The seven surviving tigers have reportedly been seized by authorities and taken to a local zoo.

Increasing demand for tiger products—including pelts, tiger bone wine, and body parts for use in traditional medicine—is driving a growing black market for tiger products in China and other nations in Asia.

Captive breeding has become rampant, with an estimated 6,000 tigers living on commercial tiger farms in China. A recent undercover investigation by wildlife advocates found that commercial tiger farming is taking root in Laos as well.

The intense demand is also driving poachers to target increasingly rare wild tigers. There are only around 3,000 tigers left in the wild worldwide, among them 450 Siberian (or Amur) tigers.