Chinese court issues a five-year jail term for selling tiger bone wine

An individual in China has been sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 yuan (about £11,220) for selling ‘tonic’ wines made from endangered wildlife, including tigers.

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Bone strengthening wine for sale in Qinhuangdao, China (c) EIA

Bone strengthening wine for sale in Qinhuangdao, China (c) EIAimage – for illustrative purposes only

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As reported in Chinese media, a court in Chancheng, Guangdong province, convicted an individual with the surname Mo under the charge of illegal transport and sale of endangered wildlife.

Mo had sold bottles of tonic wine containing tiger bone, deer antler and the carcasses of owls, snake and turtles, as well as a whole pangolin, between 2015 and March 2017.

Vat of tiger bone wine in Harbin, China (c) Save The Tiger Fund

Vat of tiger bone wine in Harbin, China (c) Save The Tiger Fund – for illustrative purposes only

A further three individuals involved in the case were convicted of illegal purchase of endangered wildlife and were given sentences of between six months’ detention and three years in prison, plus fines.

We applaud the efforts of the investigation and the issuing of a strong sentence for trade in tiger bone wine – the first such conviction we are aware of in China.

Consumption of so-called ‘tonic’ wines, made from steeping big cat bones in wine with other ingredients, is a major driver of demand for the parts of tigers and other big cats in China. This demand is having a devastating impact on wild big cats globally.

Investigations by us, other NGOs and journalists have revealed that many of China’s tiger ‘farms’ are associated with manufacture of tonic wines and even sell the product on the premises. In 2013, we exposed 18 companies and facilities involved in trading in tiger skins and/or tiger bone wine, sometimes with Government approval; read our report Hidden in Plain Sight.

We hope this conviction marks a turning point in the Chinese Government’s attitude towards the production and sale of tiger bone wine.

The future of the world’s surviving wild tigers depends on a zero tolerance approach to all demand for, and trade in, tiger products from all countries implicated in the tiger trade.