Bones be­come ‘cakes’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

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