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Here is Why China’s Tiger Farms are a Threat to the Species!

There are now 5,000-6,000 tigers kept in more than 200 facilities across China such as the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, and Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in Guangxi' each of which now hold more than 1,000 tigers.

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tiger cubs inside cages
Caged cubs at Chinese tiger farms. Wikimedia
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  • Many of these tigers in the farms are kept in horrific conditions
  • At many facilities in China, visitors can pay to get close to tigers, by taking bus “safaris” through enclosures
  • Many captive tigers exhibit symptoms of severe mental and physical distress

China, June 09, 2017: In 1986, in a thickly forested mountain valley in north-east China, eight tigers emerged from transport containers to find themselves in new and unfamiliar territory. Born in American zoos, these tigers had been shipped to China on the understanding that they would form the basis of a new captive breeding programme, to benefit the conservation of the species.

Instead, they were to become the founding population of China’s first commercial tiger farm. They had been brought together by the Ministry of Forestry at a fur farm in Heilongjiang Province to establish the Hengdaohezi Breeding Centre, a government-funded operation to breed tigers for profit, primarily to supply bones for medicinal use. The move marked the beginning of a cruel chapter in the history of their species, which was to have a devastating impact on tigers across the world.

By the 1980s, after decades of systematic persecution, wild tigers were almost extinct in China. With this decline, so too the supply of wild tiger body parts within China for use in traditional medicines had dried up. As continued demand in China fuelled a poaching epidemic across other tiger range countries, government and private profiteers seized upon a business opportunity: Large-scale breeding of tigers in captive facilities to supply body parts to the traditional medicine industry. From the outset, the tigers in China’s tiger farms were commodities, to be slaughtered and sold off for profit.

Fast-forward three decades. There are now 5,000-6,000 tigers kept in more than 200 facilities across China. Among these are huge-scale farming operations, including the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, and Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in Guangxi each of which now hold more than 1,000 tigers.

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Many of these tigers are kept in horrific conditions, in cramped concrete enclosures without any kind of mental stimulation. Many captive tigers exhibit symptoms of severe mental and physical distress, and genetic deformities suggest serious in-breeding.

There are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left on Earth — a decline of 96 per cent since the start of the 20th century. The main reason for this decline is poaching to feed Chinese demand for their skins, bones and other body parts.

Elsewhere in Asia, tigers have followed a similar trajectory. Populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are now functionally extinct, with no evidence of breeding. While tiger populations are stable or increasing in some other countries, such as India, the poaching of wild tigers to feed Chinese demand for their body parts continues at alarming rates.

Clearly, an explosion in the number of captive tigers has done nothing to stop the killing of wild tigers. Instead, tiger farming has sustained and stimulated demand for tiger parts, driving devastating poaching and hastening their march to extinction.

China’s tiger farms make frequent appearances on social media and in the news. Just this month, the announcement of tiger births at Hengdaohezi Breeding Centre was widely shared, accompanied by beguiling images of the young animals.

At many facilities in China, visitors can pay to get close to tigers, by taking bus “safaris” through enclosures, or posing for selfies with tiger cubs or sedated adults. Videos from Harbin Tiger Park show tigers living in unnatural “herds”. Visitors can pay to feed the animals, and can witness live animals being killed and devoured by as many as 20 tigers at once. There is nothing natural about such behaviour.

Wild tigers are solitary creatures that depend on their hunting skills to survive. While these captive tigers may share the inherent ability to kill as their wild brethren, they have not learned the skills of what to kill. Growing up around people, they lose their fear of humans. They would pose a serious danger to local communities if released, and would be condemned to a life of persecution.

Many facilities that keep captive tigers in China have been exposed trading products made from tiger parts. The Harbin Siberian Tiger Park and Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Village have both been documented on multiple occasions trading “wine” made by soaking tiger bones in alcohol.

The Government of China is apparently complicit in perpetuating tiger trade. Despite a 1993 directive, which prohibits all trade in tiger bone and its use in medicine, tiger bone wine appears to be produced and marketed with express government authorisation under a 2005 Notification. In 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency reported on the commercial sale of luxury rugs made from the skins of captive-bred tigers, which were being offered for sale with permits issued by the State Forestry Administration.

Multiple real-world examples have shown that in practice, legal trade in threatened species does not take pressure off wild populations. Conversely, legal trade stimulates demand by legitimising the product in the eye of the consumer; complicates law enforcement as products from wild and captive animals are often indistinguishable; and presents opportunities for traders to launder illegal items from poached animals into the legal trade.

The year 2016 saw more tigers poached in India than any year since 2001. The world’s last remaining wild tiger populations are paying the ultimate price to feed demand that is stimulated by Chinese policy. They simply cannot withstand this level of killing.

It’s clear that there is growing support for ending tiger farming in China. A proposal was put forward at this year’s CPPCC plenary session to end tiger trade and phase out tiger farms, and new government plans to establish a huge reserve in north-east China for tigers and leopards are a positive step. But until commercial breeding and trade of tigers and their parts are phased out, this policy will continue to undermine any other attempts to save China’s tigers. (IANS)

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)