Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tiger Bone Wine and Medicines

Source: Open source

Date: 04/24/09

Author: Elise Woods 

Recently, WWF Traffic released a publication called Paper Tigers? The role of the US Captive Tiger Population in the Trade in Tiger Parts.pdf (1) which calls for better regulatory overview of the tiger population in the United States.  Today, the two largest single populations of tigers are now those that reside in captivity in China and the United States (2).  Ongoing black market demand has relegated the tiger to a black market status of worth more dead than alive.  Much of this black market enters the U.S. and Canada in the form of Traditional Asian Medicines (TAM) or Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM).  CBP Agriculture Specialists and CBP Officers are the very tip of the point for recognizing, regulating and whenever possible, referring relevant medicines to US Fish and Wildlife Officials for legal enforcement.  Every good seizure of prohibited medicine gives us another bread crumb of information leading to the tangled world of illegal wildlife trade, industrial level pharmaceutical manufacturers, tiger /bear farms and international shipping, all of which hide the dirt under the cover of legitimate trade.  With that in mind, allow me to share what I have learned so far. 

1.  Federal officials have found several tiger medicines this year. 

A.  Leopard Bone, Musk and Ephedra Plaster Bandage. 

One of the most recent is a Chinese Patent medicine manufactured by ZHEJIANG DINGTAI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD, a "one of the leading manufacturing enterprises for medical dressing materials (bandages, gauze etc) in China according to their website:".  Not surprisingly, one of their most interesting products is not listed on their website, and well it should not be as it contains two CITES listed ingredients and a banned FDA ingredient. Z33020963 is the patent trade number for this specific medicine from this specific company. Note: So far, all the Chinese Patents found have contained a similar style number that starts with "Z". 

Shexiang Zhuanggu Gao   Z33020963, Leopard Bone, Musk, Ephedra,                           

麝香 (Musk) 、豹骨 (Leopard bone) 、麻黄 (Ephedra    

Your browser may not support display of this image.   Your browser may not support display of this image.«"Z" number will be found on the lower half of label. 

B. Another brand of Shexiangzhuanggu Gao plasters Z42021305? 

These (1 and 2) were found in exams this week while the last label with the obvious tiger picture is listed in an online advertisement for the same trade name and number.  They are all the same medicated plasters from the same company:  HUANGSHI HYGIENIC MATERIAL PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD (  All three boxes are labeled for the same patent product although the pictures are different.  In English on the box label it states the musk is artificial, and no bone is mentioned outside of the online advertisement translations*. The medicine does contain regulated ingredients such as Adeps Lanae (Hydrous Wool Fat), Ephedra and Chondroitin Sulfate for certain, along with several other herbs on which research is ongoing.  We will need better determination as to the musk ingredient and possible bone products including tiger or leopard for future Fish and Wildlife Enforcement opportunities. The online business Chinese advertisement translates via Bablefish into the following:   

    *"Medicinal extract brand Shen Nong the tiger specification 6.5*10*6 ingredient musk strong bone paste extracts… Uses the Shennongjia natural typical traditional Chinese medicine, the curative effect is good, turning head rate is high; Original musk tiger bone paste improvement product; Yunnan natural high quality rubber; The technique of production changes the advanced beating law by the dry pressing… 4th, domestic only through American FDA registration Chinese medicinal plaster (registration number 3003980579); 5th, obtains the Chinese international monopoly and the name brand exposition gold medal. " (Note: For what it is worth, Google search for Shennongjia includes the Shennongjia Nature Reserve which does house some species of protected felids).  

Shexiangzhuanggu Gao Z42021305 ,   

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C. Well known tiger bone pill.   

Bug symbol might be different (seen also with butterfly).  Compare to pictures on page Traditional Asian Medicine Identification Guide for Law Enforcers- version II (pg. 2.9 #B) . Note: tiger bone character (虎骨) is on ingredient label, chicken symbol on front (H5N1 disease risk) and also contains Deer antler (Anthrax, FMD disease risk), both of which also appear on the ingredient list in Traditional Chinese characters.  Gel capsule content inspection will show bone bits under microscope. 

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Box                                                             Bottle and pills               Tiger gel cap contents           

D. Vietnamese Little Tiger Medication.  

According to PAX this had tiger and monkey bone. Note the Black Cat Picture and the word "Cao" which is Vietnamese (vn) word which means "jelly" when associated with TAM.  In this case it is referring to animal jelly made by boiling desired animal part (usually bone or Cao xương (Vn)-bone jelly).  

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2.  Canadians win one against tiger bone medicine trader.   

I recently contacted a Federal Wildlife Officer for Environment Canada Wildlife Enforcement Division to request pictures and information regarding their recent successful case against Wing Quon Enterprises Ltd., for possessing and attempting to sell medicines containing parts from Tigers and other protected species.  Thanks to the recent change in CITES, they were able to make the case on labeling alone.  They seized up to 1200 bottles of the endangered plant medication, 200 of one of the bear meds and 50 for each of the tiger meds.  1200 bottles were labeled as was being imported, the rest found in the warehouse either being sold or found during their warrant. Pictures of seizure are found in Attachment A.  They have also been instrumental in helping build information on known TAM issues and identification guides. 

3. Other important translations from TAM labels and research: Hu, Gu, hổ

Note: Look for Bone symbol "" and THEN for tiger or leopard or other animal symbol!

báo (Vn) panther
Cao xương (Vn) bone jelly
con cọp (Vn) tiger
hãc lão hổ (Vn) "black Tiger"-may be radix dipsaci plant if 黑老虎   also present
hēi lǎo (Ch-Pinyin) black tiger
hổ (Vn) tiger
(Ch) tiger
Hu Gu (Os Tigris) (Ch) Tiger Bones.
Hu Gu Jiu (Ch. Recipe) Medicated Wine with Tiger Bone,Secretio Moschus,Cornu Cervi,
Hu Qian Wan (1/2) (Ch. Recipe) Hidden Tiger Pill;
huāng;  (Vn or Ch) blood
huyết (vn) blood
lǎo tiger
Os (latin) os, ossis: Latin os = bone; plural - ossa,
Panthera Large cats
Panthera leo Lion
Panthera pardus Leopard
Panthera tigris Tiger
Shen Rong Hu Gu Wan Ginseng, Deer Antler and Tiger Bone Pill; Ginseng-Cornu Cervi-Os Tigris Pill
Tiger bone 虎骨
Leopard bone 豹骨
大猫 Big Cat (Chinese)
Panthera leo
老虎 lǎo , tiger
; tiger
Panthera tigris
虎骨 Tiger bone
豹骨 Leopard bone
bone (looks like a person)

4.  H5N1 tigers from Sri Racha Tiger Zoo 

Has anyone seen this heartwarming e-mail asking can't we just get along like the tiger and pigs in this picture? 

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I received this from a friend recently and thought this picture looked familiar.  According to, the cute tiger-pigs were actually taken* at Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Thailand.  This zoo also has or had the Sri Racha Traditional Health Clinic on site and were caught selling tiger bone pills a few years ago (3).  According to a contact with Zoological Society of London/and International Tiger Coalition (ITC) associate, the difference between zoos and farms boils down to management:  

    "Zoos keep tigers in natural social groups (alone, a pair, a mother with cubs or possibly a pair with cubs) and practice "conservation breeding" in which the goal is maximum retention of genetic diversity and strategies include avoidance of inbreeding, equalisation of founder representation and lengthening of interbirth interval (slower breeding).  Tiger farms, in contrast, are aiming for  maximum production of product in terms of bones (and also of tourist revenues as a side benefit).  The management strategy necessary for maximum production of tiger bones is parallel to that used in intensive farming of any domestic animal - fixing desirable traits through inbreeding, rapidly selecting for stock that does well in the unnatural conditions,  producing as many animals as possible in any given time period, and then housing them all together to save on enclosure costs until they are full sized and can be harvested.  "Farming" in this manner results in rapid and large-scale loss of genetic diversity, in direct contrast to conservation breeding as practised by zoos (4). 

There exists a lot of controversy with this particular zoo. 

Another concern to USDA and  CBP  is the susceptibility of tigers to High Pathogenic (HP) H5N1 avian influenza (AI) which has been proven to be  linked to illegal trade and transport of infected poultry or exotic birds.  In 2003, H5N1 in big cats was first documented in a Suphanburi, Thailand zoo where two leopards and two tigers died (5).    

Then, in, 2004, there was a H5N1 bird flu outbreak which affected the tigers at Sri Racha Tiger Zoo as confirmed by the National Institute of Animal Health laboratory (6). 

At Sri Racha, 147 tigers out of 441 total population died of infection or were euthanized which meant that, as documented, approximately 31%  (45 tigers) of the cull were sick tigers, and approximately 69% (102) were culled to control the spread of the disease (6) (9). Note: OIE Follow-up report numbers used as final count. 

Standard disease eradication procedures are to dispose of the bodies of the culled animals in a way that eradicates the viral, bacterial or spore disease risk.  Previous studies indicated that implementation of control (including disposition of dead animals) is difficult in Thailand (7).  News reports at the time raised an alarming issue regarding the disposal of the sick and euthanized tigers.

    "Conservationists were alarmed that the dead tigers were not incinerated after their lung tissue samples tested positive for bird flu. Viruses tend to persist and re-infect, and the temptation for profiteers to dig up the valuable skins or tiger bones and smuggle them abroad puts black-market customers at risk as a result.  Steven Galster, the director of the conservation group, WildAid, called for a transparent investigation into the tiger mercy killings and wants carcass disposal to be supervised. "Whatever is really happening at Sri Racha, more tigers and people are potentially at threat," he said."(8)

Strikingly, there is no information on the disposition of the affected tiger carcasses in this study, nor in the follow-up reports issued to the World Organization for Animal Health Website-OIE (9).  I contacted an ASEAN source to ask if he had any up-to-date information on where and how the affected animals were disposed of.  According to the e-mail I received, He does have eye-witness testimony and there are photographs available (although not in his possession) of the tiger burial into a cement container and unknown chemicals were poured over the carcasses prior to being buried (10). 

In absence of incineration and given the potential for the burial site to be a "stockpile" of sorts, we should factor in the possibility of "bird flu tigers" in the tiger bone medicine black market as an additional disease risk factor in Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM) or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

5.  Is it too late? 

Is there still time or is it too late for tigers? 

CBP is actively enforcing US laws against trade in tiger parts and derivatives and by learning to identify these parts and derivatives in Traditional Asian Medications we will effectively limit much of the above ground trade that we encounter every day in ports in the US.  By applying the USDA regulations on regulated animal products such as bone, blood, antler, chicken, cow etc, CBP Agriculture Specialists can shut off the flow valve of endangered and/or disease risk components that enter this country every day via the pathway of TAM. 

Moreover, in learning to identify what we are dealing with, and in working with other agencies such as Fish and Wildlife, USDA SITC, we can help to lay the groundwork for effective legal action against the middle men and end-point distributors.   

As for the tigers, all is not lost. Much is being done by World Wildlife Foundation , ASEAN-WEN,  and various Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) and wildlife agencies to reeducate, reemploy and find other sources of income for those often found at the beginning of the tiger trade chain-those living at subsistence level.  Much has been done through WWF Traffic to capture enforcement data and provides educational resources for law enforcement agencies on a global level. 

Studies by Luo et al, measured the genetic variability of the worldwide captive tigers to assess whether they can be used to save the tiger species from extinction. (11). The results speak for themselves:  

    "Tigers (Panthera tigris) are disappearing rapidly from the wild, from over 100,000 in the 1900s to as few as 3000 [Javan (P.t. sondaica), Bali (P.t. balica), and Caspian (P.t. virgata) subspecies are extinct, whereas the South China tiger (P.t. amoyensis) persists only in zoos.  By contrast, captive tigers are flourishing, with 15,000–20,000 individuals worldwide, outnumbering their wild relatives five to seven times. As of 2007, there are approximately 421 Amur (P.t. altaica), 295 Sumatran (P.t. sumatrae), 72 South China (P.t. amoyensis), 198 Bengal (P.t. tigris), 14 Indochinese (P.t. corbetti), and 113 Malayan (P.t. jacksoni) tigers in captivity as recorded in regional and international zoo studbooks . The tested captive tigers retain appreciable genomic diversity unobserved in their wild counterparts, perhaps a consequence of large population size, century long introduction of new founders, and managed-breeding strategies to retain genetic variability." (11) 

Perhaps a quote by Dr. Ullas Karnath, a University of Florida alumni that has spent the past 20 years in India working for the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

    "A century from now there could be 30,000 to 40,000 tigers in India alone.  The real question is whether we can muster up the political will and raise the level of protection to make sure that this happens".  (12) 

Animals are not brethren, they are not underlings; They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time. 
Henry Beston, American Author, also known as "The Vagabond of the Dunes" (1888-1968)


  1. Paper Tigers? The role of the US Captive Tiger Population in the Trade in Tiger Parts.pdf
  1. Ibid.
  1. Black Market-Global Syndicates Profit From a New Contraband; Inside the    Endangered Species Trade in Asia. Ben Davies and Jane Goodall. Publisher: Earth Aware Editions ISBN-13: 9781932771220 ISBN: 1932771220.
  1. Personal email with Sarah Christie, Carnivore Programme Manager, Zoological Society of London/International Tiger Coalition.
  1. Keawcharoen, Juthatip et al., 2004. Avian Influenza H5N1 in Tigers and Leopards. Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 10, No. 12, December 2004
  1. Thanawongnuwech, Roongroje et al., 2005. Probable Tiger-to-Tiger Transmission of Avian Influenza H5N1. Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 11, No. 5, May 2005
  1. Yee, Karen., Tim Carpenter and C. Cardona. 2008.  Epidemiology of H5N1 avian influenza * Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 29 April 2008.
  1. McGirk, Jan.  The Temple of The Tigers. The Independent, Nov 4, 2004
  1. World Organization for Animal Health Website. 2004 Thailand H5N1 year end report.
  1. Personal email with ASEAN source who prefers to remain anonymous at this time.
  1. Luo, Shu-Jin et al., 2008.  Report-Subspecies Genetic Assignments of Worldwide Captive Tigers Increase Conservation Value of Captive Populations. Current Biology 18, 592–596, April 22, 2008.
  1. Black Market-Global Syndicates Profit From a New Contraband; Inside the Endangered Species Trade in Asia. Ben Davies. Pg  126


      1. Wing Quan Canadian Sucessful Prosecution.pdf  Pictures of seized products
      1. Luo, Shu-Lin et al., 2008. Report-Subspecies Genetic Assignments of Worldwide Captive Tigers Increase Conservation Value of Captive Populations.
      1. Keawcharoen, Juthatip et al., 2004. Avian Influenza H5N1 in Tigers and Leopards. Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 10, No. 12, December 2004
      1. Thanawongnuwech, Roongroje et al., 2005. Probable Tiger-to-Tiger Transmission of Avian Influenza H5N1. Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 11, No. 5, May 2005

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