This shabby, rundown park in Guilin – one of China's main tourist cities – is home to the world's biggest single collection of tigers. Yet it is never included on foreigners' tour itineraries.
For here, 1,500 captive tigers – around half as many as there are thought to be remaining in the wild – live out miserable lives in squalid conditions.
The reason is the tigers, mostly Siberian, are far more valuable dead than alive. For a 55lb pile of bones from a single tiger can be worth up to £225,000. There is a hugely lucrative trade in the skeletons at the Guilin park. Dead tigers are driven 200 miles from the park, officially called the Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village, to a huge subterranean complex where their fur is stripped from their carcasses and their bones collected to make tiger wine that can sell for £185 a bottle.
Tiger bone wine, made by steeping tiger bones in huge vats of potent 38 per cent-proof rice wine, has for more than 2,000 years been one of the most expensive and sought-after Chinese traditional medicines, believed to bestow the tiger's power and strength upon the taker.
Life imprisonment: The rows of squalid sheds where the tigers live at Guilin 'park'
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