The Market for Tiger
Products on Taiwan
A survey


By Keith Highley
Earthtrust Taiwan
March 1993

Introduction: The world's vanishing tigers

In the past decade, most international conservationists have focused on ending the trade in elephant ivory and, more recently in rhinoceros horn, paying relatively little attention to the plight of the tiger. This, despite the fact that three of the eight subspecies of tiger (Javan, Bali and Caspian) are already extinct; and that the world's tiger population is less than 6,000 animals (compared with slightly over 10,000 for the five species of rhino and, according to 1989 figures, over 600,000 elephants).

Tigers have been protected under Appendix I - species threatened with extinction - of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1975, when the treaty was first signed. However, legal protection has done very little to safeguard the five surviving subspecies throughout their range:

The South China Tiger, shot by the thousands as a pest under a P.R.C.government sponsored program in the 1950s and 1960s (Laurie 1989), is on the brink of extinction; less than 50 individuals survive. As the name implies, it is native to China, the major consuming market for tiger bones. Ironically, in 1959 when the Siberian Tiger was declared a protected species, the South China Tiger was condemned as a pest. Its chances of survival into the next century are marginal.

Of the five subspecies of tiger, the Amur or Siberian tiger is the largest, with the northernmost range. Earlier this century its population fell to fewer than 100 animals but by 1990 had rebounded to an estimated 350 due to a hunting ban and border closures under Soviet rule. With the fall of communism however, illegal hunting has dramatically increased and up to 50 tigers a year are lost to poachers (Bernton 1993). In some cases the skins have reportedly been exchanged for cars (Jackson 1992a) and a Siberian tiger is now worth roughly "five used Toyotas."

Tiger Populations by Subspecies

World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) Threatened Species Data/Status Report for 1992 gives the following estimated numbers for each of the tiger subspecies:

P.t. altaica     Amur (Siberian) Tiger          230-400 

P.t. amoyensis   South China Tiger                30-50 

P.t. balica      Bali Tiger            extinct in 1940s 

P.t. corbetti    Indochinese Tiger            1000-1500 

P.t. sondaica    Javan Tiger           extinct in 1980s 

P.t. sumatrae    Sumatran Tiger                500-1000 

P.t. tigris      Indian (Bengal) Tiger             3000 

P.t. virgata     Caspian Tiger         extinct in 1970s

                                total:        4760-5950

The Sumatran Tiger is the sole survivor of three subspecies that once populated Indonesia. Some tiger researchers privately acknowledge the recently revised estimate of between 600-900 individuals is much too high; probably no more than 250 tigers survive in fragmented habitat across Sumatra. Loss of living space and an exploding human population are reducing and pocketing suitable territory, making human-tiger encounters more common and increasing the ease with which poachers can kill their prey. Although accurate data on poaching in Indonesia is not available, the one thousand-plus tiger skins registered with the government (Dr. R. L. Tilson, pers. comm. 1992) is one indicator that poaching is a serious problem.

The Indochinese Tiger is heavily poached throughout its range in SE Asia. Like the other subspecies, habitat loss is fragmenting populations. In Thailand, a major exporting point for tiger and other wildlife products throughout the Far East, tigers number no more than 250 (Rabinowitz 1991) . According to one estimate, in Vietnam alone, over 300 tigers a year were killed up to the 1970s and tiger pelts were exported in great numbers to China (Jackson 1992b) . A 1992 investigation into the wildlife trade in Vietnam revealed tiger skins for sale in many markets throughout Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang (Baird & Sly 1992). Markets in Laos, Cambodia and Burma also offer tiger skins.

The Indian or Bengal Tiger lives mainly in India and Nepal. Until recently, Project Tiger had been hailed as a model program responsible for turning the tide in favor of India's tigers. In 1973, when the program began, India had only 1,800 tigers but by 1989 the country-wide total was believed to be more than 4,000 (Jackson 1990) - more than half of the world's tigers. But recent revelations show that wildlife officials, equating increased numbers to management performance, have inflated tiger numbers. Moreover, poaching in India is on the rise: one forest guard, upon discovering the identities of poachers who had killed more than 20 tigers over the past two years, was himself murdered; another tiger reserve has lost 18 tigers and leopards to a gang of poachers (Jackson 1992c); and there have been several seizures of tiger skins, the most recent in October 1992 when the skins of 81 protected animals, including tigers and leopards were taken in a New Delhi raid (Anon. 1992a).

Nepal's Bengal tigers are poached in increasing numbers as well. Formerly, farmers laced carcasses of livestock killed by tigers with poison to execute offending animals and eliminate further livestock losses. Unfortunately, poachers have adopted the same technique. Royal Chitwan National Park authorities say 10% of the parks tigers, now numbering approximately 170, were poisoned in 1988 -1989. The assault continued into 1990 when 25 tigers were killed or disappeared; and in 1991, five poachers who had poisoned three tigers were arrested (Martin 1992a).

Consuming nations and existing trade networks

As outlined in the above section trade in tiger skins continues, but demand for tiger bones, used in traditional Chinese medicine and as an ingredient in tonics, is clearly the driving force behind increased poaching from the late 1980s. In some recent cases, poachers have taken only bones and genitals, leaving once-valuable skins behind (Dr. S.K. Dhungel, pers. comm. 1992). Skins are easily identifiable but tiger bones can pass for pigs, cattle or other livestock and non-endangered species.

The major consuming nations of tiger bones and other derivatives are China, South Korea and Taiwan. Although comprehensive statistics on trade are not available, an emerging picture shows these nations are unquestionably the end consumers for tiger (and other cats) bones and derivatives. The extremely high demand, combined with virtually non-existent enforcement of both international and domestic protection laws in consumer nations, makes the tiger's survival into the next century doubtful.

Four of the five extant tiger subspecies once roamed China in the tens of thousands. Today only a handful survive and the South China Tiger, found only in China, is on the verge of extinction because of government bounties offered for skins in the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1951-1955 an average of 400 skins were taken yearly (Laurie 1989). Having exhausted their own supply of tigers, Chinese traders are branching out and today it seems most roads in the trade lead to China. In 1988, twenty sacks of bones were confiscated at a Nepal Post Office near the Tibet border (Martin 1992a); and in 1991, five poachers, believed to be responsible for the deaths of three tigers in Nepal, were arrested for possessing bones from a tiger which had been poisoned (Anon. 1991a). In both cases, the bones were bound for China. Bones from tigers killed in India and Nepal are said to move through Tibet into China via mail, rail or overland (Dr. S. K. Dhungel, pers. comm. 1992).

Taiwan and South Korea have also imported large amounts of bones over the past decade. A few examples: TRAFFIC Japan reports that between 1985-1990, South Korea imported 1,700 kg of tiger bones, possibly representing the deaths of over 50 Tigers. Twelve years ago,TRAFFIC International cited an article in "Taiwan Trade Trends," which reported that one Taiwanese brewery alone was importing 2,000 kg of tiger bones yearly, representing the deaths of between 100-200 tigers each year, to make 100,000 bottles of Tiger Bone Wine (Jackson 1991).

Bones from Siberian Tigers are easily moved into not only China (Sievers 1992) but also North and South Korea. Slightly more than halfway through 1992, twenty Amur Tigers had already been killed in one reserve (Jackson 1992a). A team of investigators, posing as buyers in southeast China, were offered four Amur pelts and were told an additional eight could be made available (Low 1991). The same investigators also saw the skins of six Indochinese tigers which, they were told, had been smuggled into China at the Burma/Yunnan Province border.

In the southernmost portion of the tiger's range, on the island of Sumatra, a multi-tiered network beginning with the poacher collects Sumatran tiger bones and sends them to neighboring Singapore where they are sent on to either Hong Kong, China or Taiwan (Anon. 1992b). A former hunter, interviewed by the author in Padang, Sumatra in December of 1992, confirmed the relative ease and speed with which tigers and other endangered species are ferried into Singapore. An earlier report of Sumatran skins for sale in Singapore surfaced in 1988, when a British journalist was offered tiger skins and told he could be supplied with ten pelts a month, mostly from Sumatran tigers. Dealers claimed most of the buyers are from Singapore, Japan and Taiwan (Jackson 1989).

Conservationists have long claimed a Thailand -Taiwan route brings tigers (and their derivatives), rhino horn and other endangered species onto Taiwan. In 1991 a shipment of three live tiger cubs bound for Taiwan was seized in Bangkok. There have also been several instances of live Indochinese tigers shipped into Taiwan from Bangkok in 1989 and 1990 (Anon. 1990a). Investigators participating in this survey (covered in depth later in this report) also note pharmacists claim bones imported into Taiwan come from Thailand and China.

Vietnam is also becoming a prominent center for the trade in endangered species products, including tigers. Besides viewing tiger skins and a plethora of other endangered species in Vietnam in 1992, a team of two investigators also interviewed an Indonesian animal trader. Now living in Taiwan, the trader told the investigators he had occasionally taken gibbons and baby bears into Taiwan and, over a three month period, had smuggled 150 monkeys on to the island. He claimed to work for Reach Shipping S. A., a shipping company, saying getting animals past customs in Kaohsiung, a southern port city, was "easy" (Baird & Sly 1992). As more and more Taiwanese fishing and cargo vessels anchor in Vietnamese ports, and visits by Taiwanese tourists and businessmen increase, opportunistic and organized wildlife trade in tigers and other endangered species is sure to grow.

Market Survey


This survey was conducted over a four month period in 1992 by three investigators. All interviews were done covertly and investigators used a variety of techniques to obtain information about possession of tiger bone. Two successful interview techniques were to pose as a buyer interested in purchasing fairly large quantities of tiger bone; and to pose as a potential customer seeking a cure for an ailing relative and curious about the curative powers of tiger bone. A total of 115 traditional medicine shops in Taipei City and County were surveyed.

Five investigators recruited for the survey resigned after meeting with rejection and "suspicion" in their first attempts at conducting interviews. Three potential investigators, who had initially agreed to take part in the survey, opted out after the author repeatedly reminded them that results of the survey might not reflect positively on the ROC government (although that is not the intention of this report).

The author and two additional investigators also conducted interviews with traditional Chinese doctors, government officials and people either involved in, or knowledgeable of the trade in live tigers, tiger bones or other derivatives. In the majority of cases, individuals providing information used in compiling this report have requested anonymity, some because of involvement in the trade, and others - employees of government agencies and university professors in particular - because of a very real fear of persecution by their peers for helping gather information on this controversial issue.

The availability and use of manufactured medicines and tiger bone wines and other tonics has not been covered in this survey.

Finally, the trend of keeping tigers, either as pets or for financial gain through illegal breeding on "farms"; and human consumption of tiger meat, penises and other parts will be discussed.

Tiger bones and other derivatives in Chinese medicine

Tiger bone, rhinoceros horn, bear gall bladders and other animal products are used extensively in Chinese medicine. To better understand this practice, it is helpful to understand Chinese medicine, which is based on the principle of homeostasis.

One Hong Kong professor describes Chinese medicine as "an integrated body of empirical knowl edge and experience developed in a similar way to that of a person trying to detect the physical changes of a sealed black box and to devise means to restore it to a 'normal' state" (But et al. 1990). By observing a wide range of physical and biological changes in humans, using a system of mutually opposing but interdepen dent and interchanging points, a physician can determine the location, nature, severity, and, in many cases, the cause of an illness. Upon diagnosis, a combination of herbal materials is prescribed in an effort to counter the imbalance(s) and restore the body's equilibrium.

The use of of animal parts in Chinese medicine stems from the belief that substances found in animal products are similar to those found in our own bodies. Therefore, the potency of a substance found in an animal drug will be many times more potent than that of a plant compound (Dharmananda 1986).

According to Ben Cao Gang Mu (the Compendium of Materia Medica) the tiger is a strong and fierce animal; even after death it can remain upright due to its strong tendons (Li @ 1570). Therefore, the front shank is the most potent and sought after bone because the animal's energy is focussed there, but the skull and leg bones are also used medicinally. The Chinese Medical Encyclopedia says the best tigers are found in China's Canton Province [South China Tiger], followed by Vietnam and Thailand [Indochinese Tiger] (Anon. 1979). In contrast, in the Encyclopedia of Chinese Materia Medica (ZhongYao DaZiDian), the NE tiger (Siberian) is considered superior (Anon. 1981).

Chinese Materia Medica lists two main uses for tiger bone. It is considered excellent for ridding the body of infection and it is an effective pain reliever (Anon. 1981). Many of the physicians interviewed say tiger bone today is principally used to treat spasms and pain, including various types of rheumatism; and to strengthen the bones. It can also allegedly calm the nerves, increase intelligence, cure dysentery, a prolapsed anus caused by chronic diarrhea, a bulging anus, forgetfulness and dislodge bones stuck in the throat (Li 1570). Sleeping on a tiger skull prevents nightmares and hanging the skull on a door wards off evil (Anon. 1979).

In traditional Chinese medicine Tiger bone is consumed in powder form and taken with water, mixed with other herbs or made into soups, wines or pills. Prior to being used medicinally, raw bones must be "treated," either baked, boiled or stir-fried (Li @1570).

Survey results and discussion

Investigators visited retail pharmacies and a handful of dealers in Taipei's infamous Di Hua Street, the island's main wholesale medical district. Of the shops surveyed, prices, stated (and viewed) amounts of tiger bone in possession and comments about the frequency of use varied widely.

Of 115 shops surveyed a total of 68 shops (59.13%) were either in possession of tiger bone or offered to purchase it for investigators. Of these shops, 62 (53.91%) were actually in possession and 6 shops could obtain the bone upon request. Amounts on hand ranged from less than 1 liang (1 liang is equal to 50 grams but in traditional Chinese medicine, the measure equates to 37.5 grams) to over two cases, each case containing six "big" bags, with individual bags containing 10 large bones or 20-30 smaller bones.

Investigators were asked to inquire about possession and price only and to broach the subject of amounts in possession only if a shopkeeper seemed willing to talk. One investigator surveyed a total of 40 shops and was able to get amounts for 22 shops (Table 1). Although authentic tiger bones are widely avail able, the market seems to be, in the words of one physician, "flooded" with the bones of dogs, cattle, pigs and other animals. Differentiating between the bones of tigers and other animals is, in many cases, extremely difficult, especially when bones are broken into small pieces. Therefore, it is quite possible that some of the amounts listed as "authentic" in Table 1 are either a mixture of bones or the bones of other animals altogether.

In Table 1 the majority of shops possessing relatively large amounts of tiger bone are located in Taipei's primary wholesale medical district, Di Hua Street. A number of these shops said they had access to large quantities of tiger bone. Several shopkeepers in the Di Hua area claim business is "good" and "sales are up." One shop representative said he sells large quantities that are made into pills and "medicine wine."

In the spring and summer of 1992 a visiting conservationist surveyed (and filmed) 32 traditional medicine shops in Kaohsiung, Taipei, Taizhong and other areas across the island. Of 32 shops surveyed, more than 20 had one or more tiger products on full display (M.Day, pers. comm. 1993).

While prices for 1 liang (37.5 grams) were given in every shop that had tiger bone or fake bone, wholesale, kilogram prices were only given in six instances and are shown in Table 2. Prices for supposedly "authentic" tiger bone range from NT 20,000/kg (US$800.00) to NT 40,000/kg (US$1600).

Table 1
Amounts of authentic, "mixed" and fake tiger bone in
possession for 22 traditional medicine shops.

Some amounts are given in TaiJin (jin). 1 jin is equal to 600 grams or 0.6 kilograms.

shop   authentic      mixture      fake

 1      1.5 jin       .5 jin        0
 2      1 jin          0            0
 3      0             10 liang      0
 4      0              0            3-4
 5      5 jin          0            0
 6      1 jin+         0            0
 7      1 liang        0            0
 8      "much" - a     0            0
 9*     4 bags - b     0            0
10*     2 cases - c    0            0
11*     4 cases - d    0            0
12      3 cases        0            0
13*     3 bags - e     0            0
14*     2-3 jin        0            0
15      0              1 jin        0
16      1.5 jin        0            0
17      1.5 jin        0            0
18*     1 jin          0            0
19*     2 cases        0            0
20*     3-4 cases      0            0
21*     "much"         0            0
22*     5-6 jin        5-6 bones    0

note: a. has access to "unlimited supply." b. twenty bones per bag. c. six big bags per case, larger bags have ten bones and smaller bags have 20-30 bones, varying in size. d. offered to provide unlimited amount to investigator. e. each bag contains 20-30 bones. * denotes shops in the Di Hua Street area, Taipei's wholesale medical district.

Table 2
Wholesale price
per kg for authentic, "mixed" and fake tiger bone.

shop   authentic          mixture           fake

1      NT33,333 - $1,333  none              none 

2      NT24,000 - $960    NT8,333 ($333)    none 

3      NT20,000 - $800    NT10,000 ($400)   NT6,666($267)

4      NT20,000 - $800    none              none 

5      NT40,000 - $1,600  none              none 

6      NT23,333 - $583    NT6,666 ($267)    none

note: Exchange rate used here is NT25-$1.00 USD.

There is a substantial discrepancy when prices obtained in this survey are compared to prices obtained in the earlier referenced 1992 investigation of 32 shops on Taiwan. Prices in that survey are given as US$933 per kilo for "the more valuable upper leg bones" and US$480 per kilo for other bones (ibid.), much lower than prices recorded in this survey.

Retail prices (per liang ) varied greatly from shop to shop. Many pharmacists were straightforward about the prevalence of mixtures and fake bones on the market and in their own shops, saying the bones of deer, goats, dogs, pigs and sometimes bears are routinely passed off as tiger bones. Some even offered tips on how to differentiate real tiger bone from substitutes and warned investigators to beware of expensive fakes. In many cases, two prices were given; a higher price, ranging between NT400/ liang ($16.00) to NT 3,000/liang ($120.00) for supposedly real tiger bone, and a lower price ranging from NT 30 /liang to NT1,200/liang ($48.00) for admittedly fake or mixed bones.

Interestingly enough, regarding substitutes, some shopkeepers say that other animal bones, including bear, cattle, and dog, are effective and accepted.

Shops surveyed that do not (or claim not to) possess tiger bone say they stopped stocking the contraband because of the lack of demand. Only two merchants said tigers are a protected species and, therefore, their derivatives could not be sold. Only eight shops said where their stock came from three from Thailand and five from China. Several indicated that Hong Kong or China was the best place to look for tiger bones.

Samplings taken in this survey are insufficient to estimate a total amount of tiger bone on Taiwan. Domestic, retail sales seem to be down and amounts sold by retail pharmacists vary from 1-2 liang each month. But much higher amounts are reportedly sold in the DiHua wholesale district. The total amount of tiger bone amassed on the island is unquestionably measurable in terms of metric tonnes, but whether that amount is less than, say, five tonnes or significantly more is anyone's guess.

Manufactured medicines and wines containing tiger bones are not covered in this survey. (Investigators did see tiger bone pills, from China, and "cubes" from Thailand.) Referring to the earlier mentioned, twelve year old figure TRAFFIC International in a Taiwanese trade journal annual imports of 2,000 kg each year by just one brewery to make tiger bone wine (Jackson 1991) it may be possible that amounts approaching this are still imported today for the same purpose. As mentioned earlier one DiHua Street dealer says he sells substantial quantities which are used to make pills and wine. Tiger bone wine is still sold on Taiwan, as are pills, and more research into this area will be undertaken.

Considering tiger bone, when compared with prices on Taiwan and in other consumer nations, is still relatively inexpensive in tiger range states in Laos, for example, it sells for as little as US$27-40/lb (Martin 1992b) smugglers, middlemen and wholesalers in Taiwan will certainly continue to trade and profit.

Tiger slaughters: a thing of the past?

Public tiger slaughters in the mid-eighties were common throughout Taiwan. In a four month period in 1984, seven tigers were slaughtered, their parts auctioned off to the public (Anon. 1984a). The slaughters were well advertised in advance: ads were taken out in local newspapers, men paraded through villages banging drums, and on one occasion a tiger slated for slaughter was paraded through villages in the bed of a pick-up truck while a loudspeaker blared out the time, date and venue of the slaughter (Anon. 1986). On yet another occasion leaflets read: Hearing it a hundred times is nothing compared to witnessing it with your own eyes a tiger will be butchered (Anon. 1984b). The events were well covered by the Taiwan press and often drew as many as 1,000 spectators.

A typical slaughter brought in as much as NT300,000, or US$12,000 at today's exchange rate, after subtracting the animal's initial price tag of NT350,000 or US$14,000. The tiger's meat sold for US$32-40 per catty, bones for US$600 per catty, leg bones for US$240 per catty, 50 bottles of blood (about 2,000cc of blood per tiger) for US$80 per bottle, "head" for US$600, tail for US$240, and the tongue sold for US$60 (Anon. 1984a). One owner said he didn't want to kill his tiger but did so after it "had grown bad-tempered and savage." This tiger's penis was sold for US$2,400 (Anon. 1984c).

The slaughters drew criticism from the expatriate community, civic groups and local and international conservation organizations, so were eventually driven underground. One merchant dealing in wild animals at the time said, "only a few cases of tiger slaughters ever reach the newspapers. Most are carried out in private" (Anon. 1984d). In 1984, according to a Taipei City Zoo official, 100 tigers were on Taiwan, 60 in private hands. The official also said most people kept tigers "as a source of income" (ibid.).

Today, tigers are protected by the ROC Wildlife Protection Law of 1989, yet tigers are still slaughtered. Their parts are auctioned off to a select clientele, including restauranteurs who use the meat, penis and other parts to prepare expensive, "exotic" dishes (Anon. 1990). One government agency employee says there are 80 tigers on Taiwan. Due to a lack of manpower, the Taipei Department of Reconstruction and Planning charged with monitoring all privately owned endangered wildlife and other government agencies are unable to adequately monitor the tigers. Nor is the department able to determine whether or not they are breeding. As a result it is possible for off spring to be sold without government knowledge.

More recent instances of tigers held in private hands or slaughtered have surfaced: In 1991 residents in Taipei City reported a tiger (and orangutan) kept in a flimsy dog cage on a city sidewalk. Fearing for the safety of everyone, especially children who may stray too close to the cage, residents filed a complaint (Anon. 1991b). The day after the complaint was filed, newspapers ran the story and quoted a government official as saying an "on-site" investiga tion would be conducted that same day. By the time Department of Reconstruction and Planning officials visited the location, the tiger was gone, and despite Earthtrust requests for information, officials refused to comment on the case. All investigations were dropped.

In 1990, to settle a dispute with a business partner, Lin Fu-An took custody of seven lions, seven tigers and four bears brought to Taiwan with the Royal London Circus. Lin claimed the circus lost US$2 million while touring Taiwan but former circus employees say the circus toured to packed houses and viewed Lin's scheme as a way of taking over ownership of the circus animals (J. Althof. pers. comm.). The author interviewed several circus employees and all said a litter of tiger cubs was born while the circus toured, only to be sold in the city of Kaohsiung. A second set of cubs was born, three died and their bodies were never accounted for. In the end, in the face of unrelenting bad press, Lin donated the eight tigers, including one cub and nine surviving lions (including four cubs born during the ordeal) to the Taipei Zoo and allowed the bear's legal owner to take them out of Taiwan.

The incident was a microcosm of the many inherent law enforcement problems and attitudes toward wildlife conservation on Taiwan; The lions were fed very little and after months of growing weaker and weaker, two died. "They're not endangered so it's no big deal," stated one of Lin's employees. The first litter of live tiger cubs and the three dead cubs from the second litter were almost certainly sold as either pets or for human consumption. Lin Fu-An was convicted of animal abuse the first such conviction in ROC history only to have the decision overturned after appealing to Taiwan's high court (Anon. 1991c); and, in an effort to quiet his former employees, Lin Fu-An dispatched a gang of men to beat two animal trainers one required hospitalization who had complained of Lin to the press.

Other instances of tigers being kept as pets and /or consumed continue to surface: One tiger "farmer" told a group of foreign conservationists that between 200-300 tigers are in private hands on Taiwan (Day and LaBudde 1993); a shipping company executive informed the author of a slaughter in Kaohsiung in 1991 a man offered him tiger meat and, perplexed, the executive asked how the man knew it was actually tiger meat. The reply: "I saw them kill the tiger." The author has received reports of two other farms, one in central Taiwan and the other in the northern port city of Keelung.

An artist recently depicted a tiger slaughter he witnessed in Keelung. The painting shows three men huddling over a skinned, unrecognizable carcass. One of the men has just removed the tiger's heart. The artist says he wants the painting to capsulize the event, for future generations to see, finding it incredible that we as humans are still capable of such cruelty.

The tiger penis: aphrodisiac and exotic fare

The tiger is revered for its strength and sexual prowess. Chinese legend has it that consuming parts of the tiger enables the user to briefly harness the animal's power. Tie that belief in with the Taiwanese obsession with sexual performance: newspapers advertise various potions guaranteed to enhance a male's sexual ability and allow him to better pleasure his partner. Promotions of sexual aids have even found their way onto network television.

A traditional method of using tiger penises is to soak the penis in a tonic or expensive brandy for extended periods at least six months according to one source. Just prior to sex, the consumer takes a "slug."

The author visited, in October 1992, a Snake Alley establishment specializing in "mountain products" (the name implies, among other things, exotic wildlife) and was allowed to view the sales pitch for a tonic said to contain seal and tiger penises. The tonic costs US$8 a shot and $US40 per bottle. Midway thought the pitch, as a group of at least 30 men looked on, a hawker brought a scantily clad woman out of a back room and stood her in front of his captive audience. Upon noticing a foreign face in the crowd, the hawker ordered the other patrons to crowd in front of the "outsider" as foreigners do not understand Chinese ways. When none of the men complied, the hawker's tone grew exceedingly violent and he began yelling directly at the author and one other Westerner, at which point we departed.

In December 1992, a Taiwanese Earthtrust investigator visited the same shop and recorded the entire event. The tonic in question, according to the hawker, was guaranteed to vastly improve a man's sexual staying power. "If you drink this," he joked, "tonight you won't be able to get that zipper up!" At one point a prostitute was again brought out for all to see. To prove the efficacy of the potion, the prostitute was placed behind a thin, gauze-like screen some ten feet from her audience. At the hawker's command and as the audience looked on, one of his colleagues mounted the woman....

Exotic, unusual foods are also popular on Taiwan. One Taizhong based restaurant, Pu Chung Pao, caters to the islands wealthy; in December 1992 the establishment prepared an NT500,000 or US$20,000 meal in the recipe of the imperial court of the Ching Dynasty for a party of fifteen (Anon. 1993b). The restaurant also serves tiger penis soup at NT8,000 or US$320 per serving (Anon. 1991). In December 1992 a foreign television station visited Pu Chung Pao and taped an interview with the restaurant's head waitress, Miss "Casey." The full text of the interview follows:

Interviewer: Please tell us what these items are.

Miss Casey: Let's start from here. This is a swallow's nest, the best type. This is shark fin. This is dried sea cucumber. This is a tiger penis. Underneath, the longer one, that is a deer penis, the ones in the back are tiger penises. This is a cobra and that is Korean ginseng.

I: Is the tiger penis imported?

C: All our tiger penises are imported, mostly from Northeast China and Thailand. The ones from Northeast China are better tigers from cold places are better.

I: How is it prepared?

C: As soup. This is already dried. First we soak it for about a week, then when it's soft we start to simmer it. While it is simmering we add about 24- types of medicine, kinds that are good for men. We simmer it for between 24 and 26 hours.

I: Is it popular?

C: Yes, here in Taiwan. Especially among men.

I: How many do you serve a week?

C: We sell more in the winter, because it warms the body. People don't eat the soup in summer. We serve it four or five times a season. It's expensive so not many people eat it.

I: How much does it cost?

C: One tiger penis makes soup for eight people, it costs around eight thousand NT. For 14 or 15 people, we use two tiger penises, then it costs 16 thousand NT.

After portions of this interview ran on the island's English language radio station in early December 1992, representatives of the restaurant denied serving dishes containing tiger penises.


On paper, trade in tigers, tiger bones and all other derivatives is illegal. In November 1986 the use of tiger bones and tiger bone "glue" in manufactured medicines was outlawed and in 1989, under the ROC Wildlife Conservation Law, trade in live wildlife and their products was prohibited. No steps have been taken to implement either law. If trade in tiger bone and other endangered species is to be arrested, the following steps must be taken:

1. Establish a unit to investigate and arrest trade in endangered species.

Such a unit would need law-enforcement power, total autonomy (answering only to the president or other high level officials) and qualified, dedicated personnel. The unit would ideally be modelled after the South African Police Endangered Species Protec tion Unit (ESPU) and/or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), recognized as two of the top endangered wildlife trade investigation agencies in the world.

The system currently in place on Taiwan calls for enlisting police officers, at the Council of Agriculture's (COA) request, to conduct raids on pet shops, pharmacies, and restaurants serving endangered species. (The COA is Taiwan's national "scientific authority.") However, corruption and complacency in the ranks of law enforcement (and customs) officials is rife and, under the current system, their ability to expose smuggling networks is questionable.

ESPU Commander Major Pieter Lategan has already visited Taiwan in an effort to forge better ties with government and law enforcement officials. The USFWS was instrumental in setting up South Africa's ESPU and has trained other units around the world. Ideally, personnel from one or both of these units should be involved in training and assisting with the creation of a similar unit on Taiwan.
The impact a Taiwanese Fish and Wildlife Service could have on trade in endangered species must be emphasized here. Major Lategan has said one or two significant busts would change the whole profile of smuggling on the island. A small group of trained and dedi cated Taiwanese personnel could, within its first months of operation, easily infiltrate and stop a portion of the major smuggling rings based in Taiwan.

The creation of an FWS type unit would be the single greatest contribution Taiwan could offer to insure the survival of the world's remaining tigers. It would demonstrate Taiwan's commitment to protecting endangered wildlife and, in the process, help restore Taiwan's severely tarnished international image.

2. Increase penalties.

The current system of fines and possible imprisonment for dealing in tiger bone and other endangered species products is hardly a deterrent to present and would-be traders. Article 33 of the Wildlife Conservation Law calls for "a fine as well as a potential prison sentence of up to two years" for trading in protected species. Unfortunately, fines are disproportionately low. In the case of rhino horn, for example, a November 1992 law states "frequent offenders" dealing in the contraband face a US$1,200 fine less than the price of a kg of horn. And in relation to possible jail terms, a substantial loophole exists: Jail sentences of six months or less need not be served and can be paid off with a fine. Lin Fu-An (covered in section on Tiger slaughters) was sentenced to six months in jail when convicted of animal abuse in 1990. Had he not appealed (and won) he could have paid off his full sentence for less than US$400.

Improved legislation should also treat false advertising of products containing tiger bone with the same severity as products actually containing the substance. Otherwise, manufacturers of certain medicines and tonics will be able to capitalize on traditional beliefs in tiger bone and other protected wildlife goods only to avoid prosecution, if caught, by claiming their products do not contain proscribed substances and were only advertised as such.

Discussion regarding live tigers kept as pets is also necessary. Since each of these animals were either illegally brought onto Taiwan or are offspring of illegally bred tigers, they should be confiscated.

3. Increase government sponsored education programs.

Despite the availability of substitutes, Taiwan's traditional medicine practitioners, on the whole, have been remarkably slow to adopt the plausibility of substitutes for tiger bone. Lack of enforcement it is quite likely that the majority of pharmacists on Taiwan have never felt a ban on the use of these products would ever be enforced is partially to blame for this attitude but education and the promotion of alterna tives has also been inadequate.

To correct this problem, all available information on substitutes for tiger bone, along with information on the precarious situation of the species, new legislation, and other pertinent information should be compiled and widely disseminated.

Public Service Announcements and other educational/promotional materials should also be created and shown on national radio and television, in the print media and in schools across Taiwan.

Increased education of customs, law enforcement and other pertinent government officials is also a necessity. This could be done in conjunction with the establishment of an endangered species trade unit (detailed in item one of this section).

4. Contribute funds to conservation work in Tiger range states.

All Asian nations could do much more to protect their tigers from poaching with increased funding. In 1992 Taiwan reportedly provided a combined US$100 million in foreign aid to South Africa and Niger. And according to the local press, the ROC recently decided to increase its annual foreign aid budget to 0.15% of the Gross National Product (GNP). The forecast of a US$229 billion GNP for 1993 means up to $344 million will be available for foreign aid use this year alone.

A fraction of this amount donated to Nepal, Indonesia, India and other range states would enable them to improve their conservation effort and better protect their tigers. A substantial donation might mean the difference between the survival or extinction of certain vulnerable populations, if not an entire species.

Many countries are finally realizing the importance of preserving endangered species of wildlife for future generations (China, for example, recently announced a US$52 million, ten year program to restore and expand Panda habitat). Should Taiwan follow suit and shoulder part of the financial burden for the global tiger conservation effort, the action would be applauded by the international community.


for more information, contact:


Windward Environmental Center
1118 Maunawili Road
Kailua, HI 96734 USA
(808) 261-5339

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