By Karl Ammann – Published in SWARA, Issue of July-September 2012
Two years ago I was filming in a new casino town on the Laos/China border. These new enclaves are built on leased territory, like Macau, and all laws go out the window. Gambling, prostitution, drugs and illegal wildlife consumption become the main economic activities and these new towns become hubs for all kinds of wildlife-related activities including the establishment of bear bile farms. While we walked the streets we found two baby clouded leopards hidden in a cardboard box. I took them out and played with them while the camera was running before the owner started protesting and put an end to it.
In the meantime a lorry driver, who had witnessed the commotion, approached our translator. He told our guide that if we were interested in these cats there were two tiger cubs a few hours away that were for sale. He gave us the address in case we were interested and we went off to find the place towards the centre of Laos. We got there and were told that the cubs had already been sold to a Vietnamese buyer for USD 4000.
I decided to follow up on the story on a later visit and hired the hunters who had killed the mother tiger with a landmine, after using a cow as bait, and then caught the cubs and sold them via family members living near the main road. We also hired a Vietnamese translator who was going to try to help track down these cubs. We travelled to the area where the mother was killed and then crossed into northern Vietnam.