By Michael Rank
Pictured above: North Korean tiger bone wine in Rason tourist shop (Source here)
Chinese visitors to North Korea are increasingly bringing back endangered wildlife products, a Chinese website reports.
Between January and July this year Dandong customs have confiscated 137 bottles of tiger bone wine, five bears’ gall bladders weighing 172 grams and five boxes of powdered bears’ gall bladders weighing 50 grams.
It gave no further details but said such confiscations have increased with the growing numbers of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea. It noted that under China’s law on trade in endangered species traffickers can be fined or in more serious cases face criminal proceedings.
North Korea is known to have been involved in rhino horn smuggling in Africa and tiger bone wine is available in tourist shops in North Korea where it is popular with Chinese visitors on account of its alleged aphrodisiac properties. But it is not clear how much, if any, tiger bone the wine actually contains, or where it is derived from.
There is strong demand for bile from bears’ gall bladders throughout East Asia, with large numbers of bears being farmed for this purpose in China and South Korea, although the governments of both countries say the industry is coming under increasingly strict control. Little is known about bear farms in North Korea.