The world’s few thousand remaining tigers are dying off at the rate of one a day, many of them sold in pieces to “cure” everything from laziness to rabies, a wildlife organization said Thursday.
The tigers are caught in a “slow, downward spiral of death,” said Elizabeth Kemf, a species specialist at the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
The Switzerland-based group said an increase in the illegal trade of tiger bones, skin and other parts for traditional Chinese medicines was a major threat to the cats.
Other threats include habitat loss due to deforestation and diminishing populations causing inbreeding and genetic deterioration.
Tigers, the largest members of the cat family, are hunted largely for their body parts, which are ground up and sold in East Asia as traditional medicines for $1,000 a pound or more.
Tiger brain, for example, is said to cure both laziness and pimples, while the animal’s fat is said to take care of vomiting, dog bites and bleeding hemorrhoids.
“We have great respect for Chinese traditional medicine,” Fund spokesman Javier Arreaza said. “But we believe alternatives can and should be found.”