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Thai Tigers Said Safe & Sound in Hainan

Allegations that tigers imported from Thailand to China were used to make aphrodisiacs are groundless, say Thai and Chinese company representatives and officials.


“All of the tigers are intact and in good condition at the breeding center and more than 50 cubs have been born since they arrived,” Maitree Temsiripone, president of Sanya Maitree Concept Co. Ltd., said on Wednesday.


Sanya Maitree Concept is the Sino-Thai joint venture in Sanya, Hainan Province, that arranged for the importation of 100 Bengal tigers from Thailand to a Hainan breeding center 16 months ago.


In recent days, allegations have surfaced in the Thai media that some of the tigers were slaughtered to make aphrodisiacs.


Maitree said the company is building a Love World Theme Park in the tropical city for the animals, which will serve as a research center for breeding the endangered animals as well as a tourism venue. It will open to the public in October.


The tigers were shipped to China on December 24, 2002, as part of a joint project proposed by former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji during a 2001 visit to Thailand. However, the Royal Forest Department of Thailand was accused at the time of violating international wildlife treaties by approving the shipment.


Tigers are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which allows the animals to be kept for breeding, research and protection.


Maitree said tigers were imported from Indonesia, Germany and the United States as well as Thailand, and all were imported for breeding and scientific research.


A government-sponsored tiger research center has ambitious plans to breed hundreds of animals in the next five years and eventually release some into the wild.


Senior officials from the Hainan provincial government and the Hainan Tourism Bureau said on Wednesday in Bangkok that China has been cracking down on the trading and killing of protected wildlife and any attempt to smuggle and slaughter protected animals will be punished.


The officials said allegations that Sanya Maitree Concept is manufacturing aphrodisiacs from dead imported tigers are “groundless.”


An official from the State Administration of Forestry, China’s top wildlife protection authority, said its position and further information on the issue will be released at a special press conference on June 10.


On Tuesday, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fended off accusations that Thailand illegally sold 100 tigers to China for commercial purposes, saying that China had convinced him that the sale of the tigers formed part of a wider Thai-Chinese tourism promotion program, the Thai News Agency reported on Wednesday.


The prime minister made the statement after Thai legislators launched an investigation into the shipment of the animals in March.


(China Daily May 14, 2004)

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