4.6.2019 –On 4th June, well-known big cat trader Ludvik Berousek was given a two-year suspended sentence and a fine for his contribution to the illegal trade in tigers and the processing of their body parts into tiger products. International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS condemns this sentencing as it does not reflect the seriousness of the crime. In 2018, FOUR PAWS published incriminating investigations of Berousek around the same time Czech police raided his property and found dead tigers, a skin, and other parts of the animals’ bodies:
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The ruthless trade with tigers remains a significant problem in the EU due to a lack of effective regulation and monitoring of breeders and traders. FOUR PAWS urges the European Commission to once and for all ban the commercial trade in tigers throughout the European Union.
With such a weak sentencing, Berousek can keep his animals and continue to trade in tigers and other big cats. He still holds a circus license and a commercial wildlife trader license. In 2018 he claimed that he keeps 50 lions, 35 tigers, ten leopards, and approximately 100 other animals on his properties near Prague.
“The sentencing does not reflect this crime and undermines efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade globally and in the European Union. To avoid further cases of illegal tiger trade, the Czech government must ensure crimes like this go punished accordingly. Furthermore, the European Union needs to ban the commercial trade in tigers as the issue of commercial trade is not limited to one country. FOUR PAWS remains in contact with the Czech authorities regarding big cats in captivity and has offered assistance in building and managing a state-owned sanctuary for tigers and other big cats to tackle the out-of-control numbers in private keeping and trading,”
says Kieran Harkin, International Head of Wild Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS.
Czech authorities take action against tiger traders
In July 2018, the Czech police raided Berousek’s and other properties in Prague and in central and northern Bohemia in suspicion of illegal killing of tigers and possession of tiger products. A freshly killed tiger was seized at one of the properties, shot in the eye in order not to damage the skin. The dead tigers were also used to make tiger broth, a substance sold as traditional medicine for the supposed treatment of all kinds of ailments. Shortly before the raids and the arrest of Berousek and two other individuals, FOUR PAWS published its own investigation on the well-known tiger trader. In the video material, he is proudly showing his tiger breeding facility near Prague and discussing the sale of tigers to Asia, including ways to manipulate permits and bypass authorities.
Countless big cats suffer in captivity for trading purposes in Europe
The July 2018 raids as well as the in-depth research by FOUR PAWS show that tiger trade is not only an issue in Asia, and it spreads far beyond the Czech Republic: The lucrative commercial trade with a highly protected species is happening right in the centre of Europe. “Ludvik Berousek is just one breeder who got caught, and he already poses major problems with dozens of big cats on his property. But what about the traders keeping tigers in their backyards in France, Germany, or Spain? The European Union must end all commercial trade in live tigers as soon as possible to clean up its mess and avoid more animal suffering”, says Harkin. The Czech Ministry of Environment immediately reacted to the Berousek case last year by suspending the export of tigers to non-EU countries, which is a first step towards improvement and further emphasizes the need for an EU-wide ban.
EU legislation lacks effective regulations on tiger trade
Breeding and trading tigers is allowed throughout the EU. Lack of documentation makes it impossible to determine how many of these tigers live in captivity in Europe, where they are traded or where they die. Tigers are endangered wild animals that need protection. Only by ensuring there is no market for tigers and their parts in Europe, the European Union can be serious about contributing to protecting wild living tigers in Asia and playing a positive role in fighting the illegal trade of all wildlife.