This week, the Chinese state-run media introduced to the world a streak of chubby tigers, adorably chasing a drone out of the sky.
Set to playful music, the video shows Siberian tigers, including a few surprisingly fat ones, stalking a drone and eventually knocking it out of the air.
Staff at this tiger park in China’s Heilongjiang province were reportedly using the drones to give the overweight tigers a workout before spring, China Central Television explained on its news site.
Chubby cats, snow, drone footage: It was internet gold that even had its own segment on Friday’s “Today” show on NBC.
That is until animal rights activists came forward to expose where they believe the viral Siberian tigers actually are: a slaughter farm.
“This is not a secret,” Susan Bass, spokeswoman for the Florida-based Big Cat Rescue, told The Huffington Post. “They have them all over China.”
Bass told HuffPost that her rescue organization tracks tiger slaughter farms in China, and they are quite familiar with the one in the video, which she recognized as the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park. Vice’s Motherboard also identified the park as the one in Harbin.
While Trip Advisor reviews for the park suggest that it’s a popular tourist attraction with “healthy” and “happy” animals, Bass says the facility is actually used to farm and harvest tiger parts.
“This is the kind of stuff we follow,” Bass said of the tiger park. “The kind of situations where captured tigers are being exploited.” Her organization is an accredited animal sanctuary that rescues abused exotic cats.
“This is sad. These tigers are doomed,” she told HuffPost. “You’re watching tigers that are going to be slaughtered for their parts.”
These tiger farms, according to EcoWatch, breed and kill tigers so their parts can be made into traditional medicines, decorations or tiger bone wine. The wine is believed to give the drinker energy and a strong sex drive. Tiger penises are sold as an aphrodisiac, according to National Geographic.
Although China banned tiger breeding in 1993 and promised the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that it had banned internal trade in tiger parts, the country is believed to have 200 working tiger farms, The Guardian reported in 2016. China allows these farms to hold an estimated 6,000 tigers for slaughter.
According to estimates by the Environmental Investigation Agency, at least one tiger is killed daily for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. But parts of the endangered animal are reportedly sold in markets throughout the world, from China, Taiwan and Japan, to South Korea, the U.S. and Britain.
As for the Siberian tigers in the now-viral drone video, Bass believes that their fates may already be sealed.
“They’re pretty large tigers,” she told HuffPost. “They’re probably going to be slaughtered pretty soon.”
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