At the Siberia Tiger Park in Northeastern China, these tigers serve a dual purpose. They're part of a conservation effort by Beijing, but at the park gates, liquor soaked in the animals' bones is quietly sold for up to $1,000. Selling tiger bone has been banned since 1993 but last October China's state counsel said it would add changes to the ban including exceptions from medical research.
That move was postponed following protests by conservationists who say lifting the ban could be a slippery slope, opening the door for the laundering of wild tiger parts. They warn that just might spell the end of the species. Reuters' Farah Master has been investigating the story.>> Conservation groups say that the Chinese government has diverging policies on conservation for tigers.
On the one hand, they're creating a national park which will be just for wild tigers but on the other hand, they're expanding their breeding program. And this is something that conversation groups say is diverting resources away from protecting the wild tiger species.>> China wants to develop its traditional medicine industry which rakes in $50 billion annually.
But experts say tiger parts aren't exactly necessary.>> Chinese medicine practitioners say currently there's no need for tiger horn or rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine because. They've found a good number of substitutes which serve the same purpose. So actually, there is no medicinal need to have these products in use again.
>> Conservationists say there are likely less than 50 tigers left in the wild in China. And none of the thousands of domestically-bred tigers at over 200 facilities in China have ever been released to help replenish wild populations. Tiger farmers argue that they need to sell tiger parts so that they can afford the high cost of running the parks.
And that the high tiger populations in the parks now mean that it will be okay to restart the trade. For now, they are keeping tiger remains in freezers until they will be able to sell it in the future.