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The recent killing of a Sumatran tiger in Jambi’s Rimbo zoo in Indonesia, can be added to a number of similar abductions (and illegal sales) of captive tigers into the black market. China has reported similar thefts out of zoos within China. Vietnam has reported illegal sales of tigers out of zoos into the black market. (I reported all of this last year in my illegal tiger part trade- it’s not new).

Given the low enforcement and reporting rates for this sort of crime there’s likely to be a lot more of this. The reality of course, is that getting hold of captive tigers is actually a lot easier than trying to hunt them in the wild. You need local contacts and a bigger conspiracy (hence face increased detection risks).

One of the peculiar aspects to this trade however, is that it should (according to many conservationists) not be happening at all. Consumers of tiger parts are often asserted to have a preference for wild tiger parts. This is employed as an argument as to why tiger farms will not work. People won’t want captive-tiger parts because of the assumed superiority of wild. Clearly there are people in the black market who do not share this belief. Captive tiger is a good, practical substitute (in the illegal trade sense) to wild tigers.

The reality is that the preference for wild parts is probably a very weak preference. It’s kind of similar to someone preferring a red car to a blue car. But if the blue car wins in other features (better price) then the preference for red disappears from the comparison.