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Samantha Felix Samantha Felix

Tiger Bone Wine Drives Tigers Closer to Extinction

The popularity of a bone-soaked "tonic" makes poaching more lucrative than ever.

2 Substance

Tiger bone wine sold in China. Photo via

Tiger bone wine sold in China. Photo via

Guilin, a small town in southern China, is home to one of the country’s largest tiger farms, Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village. Here, the Washington Post reports, hundreds of tigers live in tiny enclosures and cages made of concrete and rusted metal. Twice daily some of the animals “perform” to an often-empty auditorium, led by a ringmaster and loud music. The main attraction isn’t the shows, however, but the freely flowing tiger bone wine—rice wine in which tiger bones have been soaked.

Sold in small, sometimes tiger-shaped bottles, these “tonics” promise to help cure rheumatism and impotence among other things. A bottle that has matured for three years sells for the equivalent of $80; a six-year-old bottle costs $155, while a vintage variety is $290.

The key ingredient listed on the bottles is “the bones of precious animals,” which generally means that each bottle contains a piece of tiger skeleton. The special bottles are often reserved for senior government officials, or even used as bribes for political favors.

Despite tiger farms like the one in Guilin, the demand for tiger bone wine, combined with the trade in tiger pelts, has hugely diminished the population of an already endangered species, as the graphic below shows. It is cheaper to kill wild tigers than to raise captive-bred ones, so poaching has become extremely lucrative across Asia. Currently there are 4,000 known wild tigers in existence, while an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 live on farms. Which means someone better come up with a tiger bone wine alternative fast.

Wild Tiger Population Threatened

Photo via