On August 4, 2021, Nghe An Provincial Police had initial information about the seizure of 17 tigers illegally held in captivity at two households in Do Thanh commune, Yen Thanh district, on the morning of the same day.
However, on August 6, Senior Colonel Tran Phuc Thinh, Head of the Environmental Police Department – Nghe An Provincial Police, said that 8 out of 17 tigers that authorities seized at the two households died of unknown cause while being transferred to Muong Thanh ecological tourist area (in Dien Lam commune, Dien Chau district, Nghe An province) for care. Regarding this incident, representatives of CHANGE and WildAid Vietnam have commented on the possibilities that caused these tigers to die.
What causes the tigers to die?
The determination of the cause of death of these eight tigers is still under investigation by the parties, and no official results have been announced. However, from a conservation perspective, and after consulting with experienced experts in veterinary medicine and rescue field, the death of 8 tigers may come from one or more of the following combined causes:
The first reason
Perhaps before these 17 tigers were rescued, the seller intended to sell these tigers. Before being sold, they were stuffed with water or different foods into the bodies to increase weight, hence increasing the illegal transaction value when reselling or cooking glue. Previous rescues have shown many cases where the tigers brought to the rescue center could not eat nor drink. They eventually died after a few days. When people examined and dissected the tigers’ bodies, the animals were filled with water and indigestible food. All of the internal organs were damaged. Obesity and heart problems were also present. It is easily seen that these 17 tigers have massive bodies and weight through photos and press videos. There was even a description of them as “as fat as a pig.” Not many of them had the ability to walk normally; hence, they were often lying tired.
The health problems of captive tigers are all related to the tiger’s diet. Tigers in captivity often suffer from obesity, dental disease, and imbalance of Calcium (Calcium) or Phosphorus (Phosphorus), leading to bone and joint diseases. An inappropriate cage floor leads to nail and paws infections and urinary tract disease syndromes in the cat family, such as ureteral and urethral obstruction. In addition, tigers can also suffer from kidney disease, the most common being chronic interstitial nephritis. Tigers also suffer from gastrointestinal disorders and liver diseases; these are mainly due to diet and prolonged stress.
The second reason
Anesthesia may be one of the possible causes. For example, people anesthetize the tigers without knowing the weight. Yet, even if the weight is known, it is of the functional forces’ duty at that time to inject a dose exceeding the amount appropriate to the tigers’ weight. This ensures the rescue and transfer process is carried out safely, preventing the risk of harming residents if the tigers suddenly wake up. But the tradeoff is that the tigers can be shocked by overdose leading to death. Anesthesia is a life-threatening process for tigers, which should be closely monitored. If there are any complications, timely intervention is required.
The third reason
It could be due to time, preparation, and method of transportation. Possibly because the nature of the seizing requires fast actions so that the subjects could not respond, this inadvertently led to difficulty for different agencies to adequately prepare. A lack of preparation experience can explain it. This led to a lack of supplies, vehicles, and experienced experts. Tigers are homeothermic animals. Suppose the time of transporting tigers is during peak heat, plus the heat accumulated on the trunk due to coverings while tigers are in the state of anesthesia. In that case, they will not be able to cool down the body through normal breathing, contributing to the unfortunate death.
The receiving facility does not have sufficient medical equipment and experts in treating tigers after rescue. The treatment of tigers after the rescue is challenging; not all parties are qualified to do it. After anesthesia and waking up in a strange place, tigers may suffer from stress, eating disorders, post-transport shock, etc. This can easily lead to exhaustion and death. Therefore, it is essential to have experienced staff to take care of them and monitor them 24/7. As you can see, the receiving place is the Muong Thanh eco-tourism area (Dien Lam commune, Dien Chau district), not a rescue center. However, we can’t blame the place because they are just a place to support the functional forces in the rescue in this urgent time.
Wildlife rescue is never an easy matter.
The death of a tiger is an unfortunate thing. So what should we do at this time?
Do not give any false conclusions without official investigation or examination results from the authorities. This case demonstrates the authorities’ efforts in dealing with the illegal trade, hunting, and captivity of tigers, which have been going on for a long time in Nghe An. If there are shortcomings, this is something that the parties must learn from and improve for better and quicker responses. Let’s wait and see how the details are.
Avoid equating all rescue organizations in this regard. This will affect the efforts that conservation organizations are currently undertaking.
Do not illegally buy or use products from tigers or any other wild animals. Your purchase and usage will make a premise for illegal smuggling, trading, and hunting to take place even more complicated, making it more difficult for functional forces to track down, handling exhibits, and rescue animals. Not to mention, it will also lead to animals being kept in captivity and dying extremely tragically due to various diseases. We are not excluded from the cause of the deaths of these animals if we continue to trade and use illegal products made from them.
As you can see, the rescue of wildlife species has never been an easy matter. It requires a lot of financial,mental support and experienced human resources. Supporting conservation organizations and rescue centers by reducing their financial pressure regularly will allow the animals to be cared for in better conditions and cover the cost of their re-release. An example is the seizure of 7 tiger cubs from an illegal transport on August 1 in Nghe An. These seven tiger cubs are being cared for at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW). These individuals are all very young, about 1 – 1.5 months, and must be fed six times/day. So, every 4 hours, the care and veterinary groups staff give the cubs 100ml of milk to drink. On average, seven tiger cubs drink 1kg of powdered milk a day, equivalent to a cost of 50 dollars – about 1,200,000 VND.