Zoo in Vietnam admits to auctioning tiger bodies

A tiger is seen inside a temporary cage at the Animal Rescuing Center in Soc Son, outside Hanoi January 9, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

HANOI (Reuters) - The Hanoi Zoo admitted selling dead tigers at auctions to Vietnamese animal traffickers, the latest in a spate of violations of international conservation laws meant to protect endangered Indochina tigers, newspapers reported.

Vietnamese papers said on Thursday that the money, about $8,000 each for two tigers, was deposited into the zoo’s bank account. Some carried photos of the official receipt, but zoo officials declined to comment when contacted about the reports.

Tiger bones and other wild animal body parts, smuggled from neighboring countries and around Vietnam, are used to make traditional medicines in Southeast Asia.

The tigers were reported to have died of diseases in the zoo, but they should have been cremated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, signed by Vietnam in 1994.

The zoo’s admission comes after officials said they seized two live tigers from a car driving through the capital, Hanoi, on Monday and arrested two suspected animal traffickers.

They led police to a house where frozen pieces of four tiger bodies were stored along with stoves used for cooking glue from animal bones. Police said suspected trafficker Nguyen Quoc Truong told them he legally purchased two of the dead tigers from the Hanoi Zoo.

A zoo official was quoted by newspapers as saying the tiger bodies were sold to Truong without the approval of the Hanoi forestry management agency.

Last September, police found two frozen tigers in a fridge and two soup kettles filled with animal bones in an outdoor kitchen in Hanoi. The animal parts were cooked to make traditional medicines sold for about $800 per 100 grams.

Also last year, eight men were jailed for up to 11- years for poisoning a tiger in a zoo and selling it for $15,000 in southern Tien Giang province.

Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Alex Richardson