The Washington Post has reported that in 2019, more tigers are living in cages than in the wild. Post reporter Terrence McCoy spent two weeks with counter-trafficking conservationist Karl Ammann in Laos to learn more about the illicit wildlife trade there. In 2016, Laos had promised to abolish the wildlife trade.
Over the past 100 years, the tiger population in the wild had plummeted from 100,000 to less than 4,000. Meanwhile, the number of tigers in captivity has risen to over 12,500. On tiger farms, tigers are raised, slaughtered, and sold for thousands of dollars. In Laos especially, these tiger farms have often operated without punishment.
McCoy entered Laos without identifying himself as a journalist to accompany Amman on his trip.
He learned that habitat loss, poaching, and farming worked together to decrease the number of wild tigers and increase the number of captive ones. Tiger farms then used the tigers to create “medicines” and luxury products. Powdered bones were mixed with rice to make tiger-infused alcohol. The tiger meat was served as a luxury food. Tiger brain was used as a medicine to “prevent laziness” and tiger blood was used to “increase willpower” Tiger claws, bones, and fangs are sold.
Read about his full journey here.