Czech customs find a sack of tiger bones
Czech Customs recently made a surprising discovery: during a routine inspection in Svitavy, a town in the West of the Czech Republic, a sack of approximately 10 kg tiger bones was found in a vehicle driven by a Vietnamese citizen. The driver could not produce CITES documentation. He claimed the bones were intended for his personal use, as medicine. Upon further investigation inspectors from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate have established that the bones make up a nearly intact skeleton.
The Environmental Inspectorate believes it is likely the bones originate from a tiger that was held in captivity, either in or outside the EU.
Investigation is on going. The maximum penalty for illegal trade in protected wildlife in the Czech Republic is three years.
Supply and demand in the EU
The seizure is highly remarkable, as illegal tiger parts in current times are rarely found in the EU. The seizure could either represent a single incident or could bring to light a trend that so far has gone unnoticed.
Concerning the demand side, it is possible the increased demand for tiger parts in Asia (particularly Vietnam and China) is being mirrored by increased demand from Asians living in the EU, although seizure data have yet to confirm this trend.
Looking at the supply side, it will be interesting to identify the source of the tiger bones found in the Czech Republic. Investigative journalists in the past have exposed cases of (possible) illegal trade in surplus animals (dead or alive) from captive sources such as zoos and circuses, both in the US and in the EU. The outcome of the investigation in the Czech Republic may shed some light on this sinister trade.
German Film on the (illegal) trade in surplus animals from zoos: Geboren um zu Sterben. Von Umgang mit Zootieren. Ein Film von Stefanie von Drathen. WDR Weltweit, 2011.