It may be illegal to buy tiger bone wine in China, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get if you know the right auctioneer. Recently, Jonathan Watts, an undercover reporter from the Guardian newspaper, found himself at Googut auction house in Beijing witnessing lot after lot of banned items being hammered down. The sale included liquors and tonics fortified with tiger bone, rhinoceros horn, and pangolin. No one seemed phased by his presence until he declared that he was a reporter.
Before the sale, China’s State Forestry Administration had ordered the auction house to forego auctioning tiger bone wine because of a protest staged by a conservation group, but according to Watts, Googut showed no signs of canceling the auction until the staff found out he was present. When Watts let the staff know he was a reporter, so he could ask them about the illegal sales, things began to get interesting. The police showed up and locked down the auction — which even then continued as the auction house pressed the reporter to leave. When he refused, finally, the auctioneer declared that the tiger bone wine sale was cancelled.
According to the report, the tiger bone wine has medicinal qualities that “stave off chills, improve circulation and eliminate fatigue.” Cases were estimated between RMB 5,000 ($800) and RMB 200,000 ($32,000).
— Shane Ferro