UK pubcaster the BBC has ordered a new one-hour documentary from Grain Media, taking on the illegal tiger trade in South East Asia.
Tigers: Hunting The Traffickers follows former Royal Marines Commando Aldo Kane as he seeks to expose illegal tiger farms in South East Asia and those who profit from them.
The series will also follow the plight of wild tigers, on the brink of extinction, as an estimated 96% of their population has disappeared since the start of the last century, with fewer than 4,000 left in the wild but 8,000 held in captive facilities across China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Kane, working with wildlife crime investigators, follows key trafficking routes connecting Malaysia, China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, covertly filming tiger traffickers and gathering evidence including footage of frozen tiger cubs in freezers at a breeding facility in Laos; tigers held in high security holding pens in Thai zoos; a trader openly selling tiger products in Laos with a street value higher than cocaine; and caged tigers fattened in a dark basement in Vietnam to be killed and cooked to order.
The investigation eventually leads Kane to Geneva, Switzerland, where he presents his findings to international decision-makers at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the hopes that the international community will act.
Tigers: Hunting the Traffickers (1 x 60 minutes) is made by Grain Media for BBC2. The executive producer at Grain Media is Monica Garnsey, and the executive producer at the BBC is Roger Webb. Laura Warner directs. The doc was commissioned by Patrick Holland, controller, BBC2, and the commissioning editor is Tom Coveney.
“I have spent years in the fight against wildlife poachers and this has given me an unique insight into a criminal underworld, where wild animals are worth more dead than alive. Nothing could have prepared me for what I uncovered about the illegal tiger trade in South East Asia,” said Kane in a statement. “Here tiger trafficking is big business, often controlled by organised crime units, and yields huge profits.
“It’s ruthless and cruel and wild tigers pay the ultimate price. The growth of illegal tiger farms across South East Asia is threatening the survival of one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, where a premium is paid for its wild provenance. I hope this film raises awareness of the complex issues that surround the trade and the threat it poses to endangered wild tigers mainly amongst those who ultimately have the power to stop the trade and protect them.”
Added Holland: “This is a powerful and urgent film revealing the shocking scale and devastating consequences of the trade in captive tigers. Aldo and the team have shown remarkable bravery and tenacity to reveal the depths of the issue. It is an imperative part of BBC2′s mission to bring such compelling filmmaking about the changing planet to the broadest audience.”