Chinese authorities have arrested 15 suspects of illegally slaughtering at least 10 tigers in the past 8 years.
The killings were ordered by rich officials and other people in Zhanjiang, province of Guangdong, as a form of showing their wealth, revealed local newspaper Nan Fang Daily.
A video seized during the investigation shows one tiger in a small cage being electrocuted to death before being butchered.
If found guilty of illegally hunting and slaughtering protected endangered wild animals, the suspects could face the death penalty.
‘As far as we can work out they started operating in 2006 and we have confirmed there were more than 10 tiger deaths as a result of their activities. We suspect there may be more. Under Chinese law the tiger is a grade one endangered species – and anyone convicted of poaching the animals faces the death penalty,’ said police spokesman Long She.
The trade and use of tiger products has been banned in Chine since 1993, but popular belief that the tiger has medicinal properties has led the tiger population near extinction in the wild.
According to WWF, only 3,200 wild tigers remain in the world and China is home of only 50 of them.
“Tigers will be subjected to slaughter as long as Chinese have faith in the medical value of tiger products, such as their bones or male genitalia, which are actually very controversial in terms of their efficacy,” said Xie Yan, an expert from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“Tigers are first class national protected animals in our country and it’s illegal to raise tigers without a certificate. But many will raise them for profit and do underground business,” said Xie.