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Big cat banquets and ‘deboned’ live tigers: a new film exposes the gruesome scale of the tiger trade

This is an excerpt from an article written by Tracy Keeling and published online by The Canary on 19 November, 2020.

Tigers are in a very precarious situation, with only a few thousand of the endangered big cat now existing in the wild. The tiger trade is thriving, though, despite stringent rules on paper that are meant to keep it at a minimum. The gruesome scale of the trade is the focus of an upcoming film called The Tiger Mafia by Karl Ammann and producer Laurin Merz.

A 10-year-long investigation

Over ten years, the filmmaker and author investigated the tiger trade, predominantly in China and Southeast Asia. Ammann and his team travelled under the guise of tourists, often filming covertly using hidden cameras and drones, in order to document the “realities on the ground”. The film’s trailer explains:

Long before it was talked about in the media, Karl has exposed the bushmeat crisis in Africa and crimes against animals in general. Now he’s up against a criminal network that grows faster than the drug cartels worldwide. His investigation into the trafficking of endangered animals led him down a dark rabbit hole, a world that was much darker than even Karl could have imagined.

Animal charity Four Paws contributed to Ammann’s findings with its research into the tiger trade in Europe. As it states on its website, the documentary exposes “breeding farms keeping thousands of tigers, tiger petting zoos” and the widespread sale of “traditional medicine and luxury items made from their body parts”.

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