'Chhouk' the amputee elephant. Abandoned as a baby in the Cambodian forest, his mother was taken by poachers, Chhouk was rescued by Wildlife Alliance and given a prosthetic leg. Photo: Jerrie Demasi

[Part 2: Raiding the dark animal underbelly of wildlife trafficking – '4-star generals kept tigers in cages in their living rooms, bears were behind most restaurants waiting for their paws to be cut off']

By Jerrie Demasi
19 April 2013

(Sydney Morning Herald) – Would you purchase an endangered tiger's tooth as a cure for acne?

Perhaps not, but in many Asian countries, you could.

The fact that the animal may be critically endangered can actually make the purchase more lucrative, as the rarer the animal, the more potent it's good fortune and healing properties.

Like the drug trade, wildlife trafficking is big business.

In Cambodia, traffickers wait on the outskirts of forests waiting for village hunters to return with whatever their snares have trapped. The sale of rare and endangered animals is one of very few options they have to provide for their family.

This is the vicious circle that Perth woman Rebecca Tilbrook wants to break.

For 15 years as a conservationist, Ms Tilbrook has seen Cambodia's wildlife decimated by the illegal trade and last year decided to start her own charity, For the Animals.

"I don't want to see the tiger or the elephant wiped off the face of the earth during my lifetime," she said.

"I just think that it's unconscionable that we are even faced with that possibility, and it's a very real possibility."

When Ms Tilbrook first arrived in Cambodia more than a decade ago she was confronted with wild animals being tortured and sold on every street corner.

She says the practices have since moved underground, behind closed doors.

Bears are kept alive in restaurants waiting for customers to order bear paw soup, a delicacy at $300 a bowl. Chefs cut off each paw one at a time, leaving the animal alive, slowly bleeding to death, to ensure the meat remains fresh for the next order.

Other bears are sent to bile farms in China or Vietnam where they live in "crush cages" designed to squeeze every last drop of bile from their pancreas out through the needle of an old catheter, until they stop producing it and die.

Macaque monkeys are yet another culinary delicacy, served either screaming or drugged, strapped beneath the table with a hole for their head to poke through.

Their skull is then removed and their brains eaten alive.

The popular belief is that meat is the healthiest when the animal is alive, and that the more fear an animal experiences at death, the tastier its flesh becomes.

Almost every part of the endangered Asian Tiger can be used and are sold for a hefty fee, including the penis which is brewed as a tea to cure impotence.

According to the conservation group Wildlife Alliance, it is likely that there are no tigers left in the wild in Cambodia.

Its records say that the last time a tiger was sighted in the Cardamoms - one of the last continuous forests in South East Asia - was in 2007.

"We need to take direct action and we need to do it quickly," says Ms Tilbrook.

"We're running out of time." [more]

'Skull is removed, brains eaten alive': dark trade in our backyard


  1. gail zawacki said...

    "We need to take direct action and we need to do it quickly," says Ms Tilbrook.

    Well, no. Humans should be exterminated. Eating monkey brains while they are alive? Of all the many horrible things I have ever heard of people doing, to each other or to animals, this has to be the most macabre, closely followed by the bear paw soup. Any species capable of producing members capable of this DESERVES its extinction. It can't come soon enough.  


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