Tiger King bombshell: China’s big cat death row exposed amid Netflix surge

Netflix mega hit ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’ has bewitched viewers across the globe. The bizarre true-crime flick has perched atop of the streaming platform’s most popular list for the last 11 days and looks unlikely to budge any time soon. It follows big cat keeper Joe Exotic’s feud with nemesis Carole Baskin, an animal sanctuary owner, leading to his arrest for allegedly hiring someone to kill her. The TV show has led many to question the treatment of big cats that are not free to roam in the wild and whether members of the public should be able to own them at all. While the health and happiness of these animals is validly being questioned, their treatment is nothing compared to the barbaric acts being carried out in other countries. This is most notable in South East Asia, where tigers are poached from the wild and brutally slaughtered to make animal luxuries for some of China’s elite. Documentarian Aldo Kane told Express.co.uk about the grim reality of the tiger bone product industry and the horrors happening to big cats put on death row. 

Former Royal Marine Aldo Kane, of Scotland, exposed the shocking goings-on in the BBC documentary ‘Tigers: Hunting The Traffickers’, which aired last month.

He went undercover alongside wildlife investigators and activists, bravely putting their lives at risk to reveal the truth about the trade and butchering of big cats. 

The shameful scenes were filmed in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – where traffickers and criminal gangs exploit tigers in a multi-million-pound industry.

In those nations, products including tiger bone wine and glue were revealed to have been purchased by wealthy individuals.

For some the “luxury items” are a sign of opulence to boast with before friends and for others who believe in “trafficker pedalled myths” it is a virility aid.

Mr Kane explained that wild tigers are on the “brink of extinction” after numbers have “halved from 8,000 to 4,000” over the last 35 years.

One of the several reasons cited for this devastating decline is poaching, which has been further fuelled by the illegal trade of tiger bone products.

He told Express.co.uk: “Tiger bone products are no longer part of traditional chinese medicine, it’s more that traffickers are pedaling this as a status symbol.

“It’s the equivalent of a posh pair of shoes, a new car or a new watch – the status of being able to afford this wild animal.

“Then there are some who believe it increases men’s sexual prowess – if they consume the beast, then they become the beast.”

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The disturbing reality behind the production of tiger bone products sees tigers being snatched from the wild or allegedly sold by farms – meant to increase their numbers.

From there, individuals pay for the tiger of their choosing to be slaughtered in front of their eyes or recorded via camera phone. 

Tigers are often killed through electrocution or drowning then gutted, disemboweled and all the flesh is carved away from their skeletons. 

Their bones are then either boiled for days until it forms a dark black glue that can be added to a bottle of alcohol or stewed with wine for up to eight years.

Mr Kane told Express.co.uk: “These tiger products are being seen as ‘commodities’. They are being made to be taken everyday or with friends as a sign of stature.”

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In the documentary, wildlife investigator Chau Doan posed as a wealthy businessman looking to have a tiger killed for the bone-based products – in a bid to expose the evil trade.

He was taken to a secret hideout where the tigers were being kept in tiny, cramped conditions on “death row”.

During the stint, Mr Doan was told by one of the criminals that they were selling as many seven tigers to the slaughter every day.

That horrifying statistic – if the numbers are accurate – equates to more than 210 tigers being murdered every month from just one illegal spot alone.

Mr Kane told Express.co.uk that the business was an “industrial-sized operation” in what is considered to be an already “out of control” industry.

Hidden camera footage taken for the documentary showed extremely overweight and bloated tigers that appeared barely able to walk and in clear discomfort. 

Mr Kane revealed that this is an additional cruel measure to ensure that those operating within the criminal trade can make even more profit. 

He told Express.co.uk: “From what we could tell, the tigers were pumped full of liquid to increase their weight, as they are sold per kilo when boiled into the glue.

“The tigers are obese anyway because they don’t get exercise and are kept in a cage – which are only a few feet across.

“When they can’t exercise their muscles atrophy and they become quite large – that’s on top of whatever they are already being pumped with.”

One of the alleged reasons behind buyers’ demanding proof of the killing is to ensure the products are legitimate.

Mr Kane told Express.co.uk: “They will come to see the tiger being killed and stay three days while it’s boiled into glue.

“This is to prove one hundred percent that it is a tiger and that’s why the videos are made too. It’s provenance for the people who buy the product that the exact process they specified happens.”

Mr Kane claims that this distrust could stem from the blackmarket trade and smuggling of big cat carcasses from South Africa.

He alleges that the bones of lions, cheaters, jaguars and other animals are being transported along trade routes to south east Asia – where they are then sold as “tiger bones or ‘tiger bone product”’.

Another grim find during the documentary was that one Laos trafficker was keeping dead tiger cubs in his freezer.

After placing hidden cameras around the facility, video footage captured the unnamed owner of Say Namthurn being “caught red-handed”.

Mr Kane described the clip: “They’re lifting up the freezers and pulling frozen tiger cubs out of the freezer.”

The individual was later sentenced to six years in prison for wildlife trafficking after being caught transporting seven dead tiger cubs at a border crossing.

While putting an end to the trade may appear hard, Mr Kane suggests that a multitude of things could stop the criminal industry once and for all. 

One of those is China clamping down on tiger products, which he believes could create a ripple effect across south east Asia.

Mr Kane told Express.co.uk: “From my opinion, if China was to step in line then other countries would follow because of its sway due to economical reasons.

“The problem is the traffickers, middle men and entrepreneurs are touting ‘new miracle cures’ from different parts of the tigers, that are not used in traditional Chinese medicine.”

Another relates to reeducating people about tiger bone product myths including it being a sex aid.

Despite this, Mr Kane fears that many buyers are only using the product as a way to showcase their wealth – but with the bleak note, he held optimism for the future.

Mr Kane admitted to Express.co.uk: “I don’t think the younger generation are as active as the older generation.

“The younger generation – similar to the rest of the world – are not doing old traditional things.”

China has come under increasing pressure recently to enforce strict legislation on the trade of wild animals – after claims coronavirus was spread from wet markets.

Mr Kane told Express.co.uk: “Coronavirus may or may not have a positive effect for wildlife in China and south east Asia – if a ban is put on wildlife products that will help. 

“But we know from what we’ve seen and investigated that what China says and does are two very different things.”

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