Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Undercover investigation reveals Richmond firm's tiger-parts trade
March 18, 2011 Suzanne Fournier, The Province
The B.C. government has launched an investigation following an undercover probe by The Province that showed a Richmond-based company seeking to buy “captive” tiger fur and bones along with fur from “Canada’s endangered species” for its clients in China.
After initially denying its involvement in the animal trade, officials of the Canada to Asia Business Network, when confronted with emails and video evidence obtained by The Province, said they would seek legal counsel on the legality of the animal-trade business.
“We would not do anything illegal. I said we wanted to deal with legal company,” said project manager Debbie Wang, saying the CABN didn’t know it was illegal to export tiger parts or offer to buy the fur of Canadian endangered animals. “I have no idea whether it’s against the law or not,” said Wang.
Vancouver-based business journalist Marc Davis provided to The Province details of a six-week undercover probe he conducted by email with CABN, in which he found the company tried to buy tiger fur and parts and endangered Canadian animals.
In February, a mining analyst who knew of Davis’s interest in animal welfare gave him a CABN ad asking for a “supplier of fur products.” Davis emailed CABN asking if they wanted endangered species or tiger fur.
CABN officials made it clear to Davis they wanted to set up a long-term, high-volume supply of exotic and endangered animals to ship to China. CABN project manager Cindy Dong wrote in a Feb. 23 email: “The client is looking for different types of large wild animal furs, including the Canada’s endangered species list. Sea otter is a bit too small for his demand.”
The Province then videotaped Davis talking on the phone to CABN project manager Debbie Wang. Wang can be heard on tape seeking to buy tiger fur, paws, bones and tiger penis bones in particular, along with any quantity of endangered animal fur without any messy parts. “We don’t want the meat . . . just the fur and the bones, but I like to have them very clean, like one of those sheep mats on the floor,” said Wang.
Wang’s concern with the idea of buying the pelt of an extinct eastern Canadian cougar appeared to be about how much it would cost. She did say that CABN wanted to deal with a “legally operating” company.
Although animal trafficking worldwide is an estimated $10-billion business, with China emerging as a huge and burgeoning market, Wang balked at paying $300 for extinct eastern cougar fur, saying she’d ask her Chinese client. “Five tigers is actually not enough,” Wang also said in an earlier email responding to a suggestion that a fictitious roadside zoo owner would slaughter its captive tigers to sell to CABN.
CABN emphasized in its original ad and in emails to Davis that it wanted to deal with a “company legally operated within Canada,” although buying and selling tigers and endangered species is prohibited by B.C., national and international laws.
In a Richmond boardroom this week, CABN president Tommy Yuan, Wang and business development manager Kristy Guan were happy to describe “boutique” events at which CABN plays“matchmaker” between Canada and Chinese investors. But the mood turned angry when The Province asked if CABN bought or sold animal parts, along with its thriving above-board, import-export business.
“We are Buddhists. We don’t believe in killing,” Wang insisted. Yuan charged: “You are just blowing this up in the newspaper to make it look as though because we deal with the Chinese client, that we provide this.”
The Province then revealed to the three company officials that it had the CABN emails discussing the animal trade. Wang was told a videotape had been made that same day in which she is heard discussing animal trade.
Confronted with that evidence, the CABN officials’ attitude changed again. “We would not do anything illegal. I said we wanted to deal with legal company,” said Wang, saying CABN didn’t know it was illegal to export tiger parts or solicit buying the fur of endangered animals. “I have no idea whether it’s against the law or not,” said Wang. Then Guan shut down the meeting, saying CABN would consult with its lawyer.
“We cannot offer comment as this matter will now be the subject of an investigation by the Conservation Officer Service,” said Matt Gordon, spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Natural Resource Operations.
Davis, a former Province reporter born in Britain, says it is “absolutely despicable” to trade in selling exotic and endangered animals and has offered to co-operate in any investigation or enforcement.
CABN’s glossy brochure sports B.C. government logos and also cites the Surrey and Vancouver boards of trade, the province of Ontario, Simon Fraser University and the Better Business Bureau. CABN officials refused to say how much money could be made from animal trade between Canada and China.
“This is a ghastly business, with the Asian market, particularly China, willing to pay huge sums for bear gallbladders, bearpaw soup, tiger penis bones as aphrodisiacs and now even Canadian endangered species,” said Vancouver animal rights activist Brian Vincent.
Vincent, who worked with Big Wildlife in California, says that the billion-dollar international trade in exotic animals will soon render extinct iconic species such as the tiger.
The financial lure of exotic animal trafficking combined with the opportunity to procure legally hunted Canadian animals only encourages poaching and illegal exports, warned Vincent. “British Columbians will be rightly horrified by the idea of our beloved animals being killed and sold to China.”
Environment Canada has vigorously pursued in the past several Richmond wholesalers of Asian medicine caught with the body parts of African elephants, monkeys and crocodiles, dealing in which is deemed to be in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Fines in the tens of thousands of dollars have been levied and collected.
Federal wildlife officer Joel Rose said in an interview from Ottawa that commercial trade in tigers is prohibited by the Wild Animal Plant Protection and Regulation, International and Interprovincial Trade Act, known as WAPPRITTA. In Canada, offences under WAPPRITTA are punishable upon conviction by a maximum fine of $300,000 or imprisonment up to five years, or both.
Although bear species and wolverines can be legally hunted in Canada, companies must purchase furs from a legal source and get an export permit from Canada — which can be denied, particularly in commercial trade cases.
More than 5,000 animal species, sub-species and populations and 29,000 plant species, subspecies and populations are listed under CITES.
Told of the exotic and indigenous animal parts a B.C.-based company was seeking to export, Rose responded, “Yes, I believe we’d like to proceed with an investigation . . . and prosecution” and requested details of the business.
B.C. passed laws in 2009 prohibiting the possession of 1,256 exotic species. However, the law “grandfathered” in existing exotic animals or pets, but prohibited their breeding, thus reducing the profitability factor.
“I am just horrified this company appeared so willing to traffic in exotic and endangered animal species,” said Davis, who told CABN of five tigers from a fictitious zoo. “As an immigrant myself, from a country where the majority of wildlife was wiped out years ago, it is one of the wonderful things about Canada that it still has magnificent wildlife, on which Canadians place a very high value.”
CABN promised Davis that “once the relationship is established there will be a large quantity of orders will be placed on the regular bases.” Federal and provincial authorities have vowed to vigorously investigate any trafficking in exotic or prohibited animals from B.C. to China.
March 22, 2011, Carmina Gooch’s letter to BC government officials:
Re: Trophy hunting and illegal wildlife trade
In 2007, the BC government announced a consultation process to review the Wildlife Act, the first major overhaul of the Act in 25 years. Among the changes proposed by the Ministry of Environment, was a liberalization of hunting regulations to meet a provincial goal of generating 20,000 new hunters by 2014. A BC Stats study released in 2005 showed the proportion of resident hunters has dropped to two per cent of the population from six per cent in 1981. There were 83,701 registered hunters in B.C. in 2006. Hunting has clearly lost its appeal. The general public and animal activists alike consider it cruel and unnecessary, particularly trophy hunting, and also object to it as being portrayed as ‘sport’ or ‘recreation.’
Unfortunately, poaching has surged with animal trafficking worldwide estimated to be a $10-billion dollar business. Bear, tiger, and other animals are used in traditional Chinese medicines and remedies and it’s a huge market. The international trade and illegal trafficking of wildlife has brought with it enormous animal cruelty and suffering, and decimated populations. While a Burnaby couple was ordered to pay $6,000 and forfeit their hunting gear after killing two bears and removing their gall bladders for personal use in 2006, wealthy international consumers hire poachers directly or go through companies involved in the animal-trade business.
In 2009, an individual was reported to be bear-baiting in the Bella Bella conservancy area. Conservation and animal-welfare/advocacy groups at the time questioned why the government allows trophy hunting to occur in an area where it’s unwanted and in direct contrast to the real area economy, based in part on wildlife viewing and tourism.
In the fall of 2010 there were numerous news articles regarding the poaching of deer by trophy hunters in Saanich. One deer had an arrow in its hindquarters, another was found with a sawed-off leg, another had been beheaded, and a buck was found injured and bleeding, shot through the midsection, on a homeowner’s front lawn. Imagine the suffering. The individuals that do this have no regard for life, public safety, or our laws.
Despite BC’s wildlife regulations and some recent amendments, they are ineffective in deterring poachers from carrying on their illegal activities. Additionally, there is no need to increase “hunting opportunities” to accommodate young or new hunters or to enable groups like the First Nations to hunt as part of their ‘culture.’
With virtually no enforcement by the few officers throughout the province, those flouting the law can carry on undetected. Criminal charges and/or fines are rarely levied against violators. Licenced hunters and other citizens out walking in the woods have come across carcasses of different species left rotting alongside trails. I’ve been told of instances of illegal night hunts, pit-lamping, and hunters coming onto residential acreage/fields searching for wildlife. In 2007, three Richmond males shot two female deer, one which was pregnant with two fawns, out of season.
Unbelievably, BC is without Species at Risk legislation, (although a task force was set up last year) so even our endangered species and their critical habitat are left unprotected.
Whether hunting is considered to be of economic importance, is legal or illegal, or includes the slaughter of exotic or indigenous wildlife, the fact is that all our animals need to be protected and valued as beings with inherent worth.
I sincerely hope the Richmond-based company, Canada to Asia Business Network is intensively investigated and prosecuted for what appears to be unprincipled and illegal activity. I commend journalist Marc Davis and The Province for bringing this disturbing and sordid story to us.
Same people who hunt tigers will target our wildlife
By Suzanne Fournier, The Province March 18, 2011 (excerpt)
Tigers the world over are literally being reduced to skin and bones. And perversely, it is the very rareness of the exotic beast that increases its attractiveness to certain buyers, unfortunately the same people now turning their attention to indigenous and endangered Canadian animals.
But Asian trade interest is mounting in Canada's wealth of large wild animals, including black bear, grizzly bear, wolf, cougar and wolverine.
B.C. banned the trade in 1,256 exotic species in 2009. While the tiger is protected, ironically Canada allows hunting of all of its own large mammal species. Conservationists say hunting of bears, wolverines and cougars masks poaching and opens the door to export and loss of wildlife.
Environment Canada wildlife officer Joel Rose said there were 37 convictions from 2007 to 2010 under its CITES-linked law, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, dubbed WAPPRITTA.
Most had to do with exotic species, while B.C. sits back and asks only that its indigenous wildlife be exported only with government permission.
Profit trumps preservation
By Carmina Gooch, The Province March 22, 2011
The poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is decimating animal populations at an alarming rate. Yet, with little enforcement and co-operation among nations, these horrific crimes go virtually unchecked.
Shockingly, the B.C. government permits the barbaric practice of trophy hunting of bears, knowing that the Asian market for gall bladders and paws is huge.
It seems the value of the almighty dollar trumps any sense of obligation or morality. It's open season for criminal activity to flourish.
Carmina Gooch, North Vancouver
It has been said more than once that to date the human enterprise has proceeded with inadequate moral guidance, characterized by a blatant disregard for non-human animals and the environment that sustains all species.
Please do your part, and make the protection of all animals, whatever the species, and how they are categorized, a priority. I look forward to updated and modern legislation that reflects a compassionate, humane, and inclusive society.
March 23, 2011 Comments online and letters to the editor were from people outraged over animal trafficking, the blatant disregard of endangered animal species, company greed and claims of ignorance the laws of our country. CABN is in the importing business and knew exactly what they were doing. Many felt those involved should be given stiff jail time, hefty fines, and if non-Canadian, deported. The federal Canadian Wildlife Service is heading up the investigation. CABN has hired Nanaimo realtor Richard Zurbrigg to speak on its behalf. He claims “there is a language barrier,” even though Wang, senior project specialist, obtained business training at Capilano College and speaks with virtually no accent.
November 18, 2015 Bear parts trafficker pleads guilty to dealing in gall bladders, paws