Bones become ‘cakes’
THIS IS how the lion bone trade works: a trophy hunter in South Africa books a “lion hunt” of a captive-born animal for as much as $25 000 (R253 500). It costs a fraction of the price to hunt a female lion.
A taxidermist, with the hunting company, arranges for the sale of the skeleton to a buyer in Laos for $1 500. The Laotian importer sells these on to Vietnamese buyers for between $700 to $800 a kilogram or a total price of about $15 000.
The Vietnamese buyers, from Ha Tinh province, ship the bones across the LaosVietnam border without permits. In Vietnam, a 15kg lion skeleton is mixed with 6kg of turtle shell, deer antler and monkey bones. Over three days, this concoction is boiled in large pots. The result: about 7kg of tiger cake, cut into chocolate-like bars of 100g. This will be split into 70 portions marketed as tiger bone cake. Each bar will be sold for about $1 000.
Independent wildlife investigator Karl Amman, who has probed the Asian links to the South African lion bone and rhino horn trade, found that lion bones imported from South Africa are sold as “tiger bone” to be turned into tiger wine in China (traditional medicine) and tiger bone cake in Vietnam.
Amman said Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) statistics showed the export of 101 full lion skeletons from South Africa in 2010 and over 500 in 2011.