China: Abuse of tigers raised in US cable - 'WikiLeaks'

A US diplomat disguised himself as a Korean tourist to probe a tiger farm in China where he voiced alarm at conditions that included whippings of the endangered big cats, a leaked memo says.

An internal US diplomatic cable, released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, questioned the intentions behind the Xiongsen Mountain Village but was unable to substantiate reports that tiger meat was on sale.In sometimes colourful language, the 2007 cable narrated how an unidentified officer at the US consulate in Guangzhou overcame the suspicions of Xiongsen's staff by convincing them he was a Korean tourist."The staff stated that up to three tour groups of Koreans came a day, numbering more than 30 in each group. The Koreans were among the most enthusiastic purchasers of both the black bear bile and the tiger wine, according to store staff," the cable said.The officer described a "circus-like environment" in which tigers were struck with a metal pole and whipped.

Conservationists, however, have claimed the farms primarily produce tiger parts, which some Asians regard as an aphrodisiac.

The diplomat "was unable to confirm allegations that tiger meat was available" at Xiongsen, but "the commercial nature of the farm was troubling", the memo said. "The large number of endangered tigers and bears present with no current plans to reintroduce . . . them into the wild raises concern regarding the motivation of such a farm."

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