Police crack down on illegal tiger trade

A fresh-killed tiger, tiger skins and pelts of other big cats, as well as frozen bodies of various protected animal species were discovered during police raids that recently took place around the Czech Republic. Three men have been charged with unlawful treatment of protected wildlife.

Photo: ČTK/PR/Policie ČRPhoto: ČTK/PR/Policie ČR For more than two years, police and customs officials in the Czech Republic have been gathering material in an effort to crack down on the illegal trade in rare animal breeds, including tigers. The organised group gained financial profit through making traditional Chinese medicine products from the slain animals.

At a press conference on Wednesday Robert Šlachta from the Customs Directorate uncovered more details about the case:

“The tiger we discovered was shot in the eye and in the neck, so that the skin would stay intact and could be sold on the black market. According to our information, the cooking of the tiger meat took five to twelve days and all parts of the animal, including the pelts, teeth or claws, were intended for commercial purposes.”

According to the website Lidovky.cz, the sites raided by the police included Sapa, a large Vietnamese market place on the southern outskirts of Prague, and a zoo park in Doksy in north Bohemia, run by well-known circus owner Ludvík Berousek.

Mr.Berousek, who is one of the three people arrested in the case, is accused of breeding tigers and supplying their bodies to a taxidermist, who processed them and made products for sale on the black market.

Also detained was a Vietnamese national, who is suspected of organising the criminal activity and ensuring the sale of these products in the Sapa market and elsewhere.

The investigation was carried out in close cooperation with the Czech Environmental Inspectorate. Its head, Erik Geuss, says illegal trade in tigers has become a growing problem in the Czech Republic:

“In recent years, we have observed an increase in the illegal export of tigers and other felines from the Czech Republic. This is because there is quite a large Asian community living in the Czech Republic and there is a substantial demand for tiger products in that region.

Photo: ČTK/PR/Policie ČRPhoto: ČTK/PR/Policie ČR “There are currently around 400 tigers registered by CITES in the Czech Republic but only around 40 of them live in zoological gardens. And while tigers kept in zoos live to around the age of 20, those kept by private breeders only live around five years.”

The price of a tiger on the black market ranges between 100,000 to 150,000 crowns, while its skin can be sold for around 100,000 crowns. The price of one gram of a bouillon cube, made of tiger bones, is around 1,500 crowns.

According to Mr. Šlachta, this is the first case in Europe that has been documented ranging from illegal trade in tigers to the sale of tiger products on the black market. Those accused could face up to five years in prison.