Watching tigers being killed has become a source of entertainment for some local officials and rich people seeking to show off their wealth in Zhanjiang, South China's Guangdong Province.
Details of the tiger killings in the city were revealed by local newspaper Nanfang Daily on Wednesday, a week after local police arrested 15 suspects who allegedly slaughtered at least 10 tigers illegally.
One suspect, 61, who had made a living by butchering pigs before his retirement, died when he jumped off a building while trying to escape from police. The suspect reportedly slaughtered at least 10 tigers.
The report quoted an anonymous source in a local State-run enterprise as saying that every tiger slaughter became a gathering to "broaden participants' horizons."
Sources said that tigers being transported to the city must be examined by the buyer to make sure they are alive, and it's very likely that tigers had been injected with narcotics during their transportation.
A video clip of a slaughter two years ago showed that the tigers were locked in a cage and killed by first having electric batons thrust into their mouths before being butchered.
The business of slaughtering tigers and trading in tiger products are so lucrative that the price of tiger bones hit 14,000 yuan ($2,254) per kilogram, and alcohol made from the bones sells at 1,000 yuan per kilogram, the report said, noting that buyers of tiger products are mainly entrepreneurs and many give them away to civil servants as gifts.
Cases of illegally keeping or slaughtering tigers were revealed in the city in 2007 and 2010, while the report said that the slaughter and trading continued despite being banned.
"Tigers are subjected to slaughter as long as Chinese have faith in the medical value of tiger products, such as their bones or male genitalia, which are actually very controversial in terms of their efficacy," Xie Yan, an expert from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times.
Tiger bones and genitalia are recorded in some ancient traditional Chinese medicine books for their efficacy in improving male health and curing impotence.
China issued a regulation in 1993 banning the trade and use of tiger products.
According to the police statement, the suspects were arrested for illegally hunting and slaughtering precious and endangered wild animals.
However, Xie said as the number of wild tigers is extremely small in China, domestic illegal slaughter mainly targets tigers raised in captivity.
"Tigers are first class national protected animals in our country and it's illegal to raise tigers without a certificate. But many will raise them for profit and do underground business," Xie said.
When asked about how authorities identified the slaughtered tigers as wild ones, a member of staff from the Zhanjiang Forestry Bureau told the Global Times that the bureau is cooperating with the police, but the case has not been solved yet and the investigation is still underway. The local police declined to comment.