Ho Chi Minh City wildlife butcher nabbed

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A Tuoi Tre investigation has exposed a woman who told undercover reporters that she has sold tiger cub meat in and around Ho Chi Minh City for the past ten years.

Once customers agreed to buy, Van, as the woman is known, defrosts an entire cub and butchers the animal in front of them.

A whole cub, weighing between 13 and 14 kilograms, costs VND19 million (US$975).

She also sells whole cubs soaked in rice wine. The wine is offered as a promotion.

"We just need to cut the belly open, remove the intestine and stitch the belly and soak the whole thing in alcohol," Van told a reporter posing as a customer over the phone last week. "We will keep its shape and soak it in a jar with wine."

"We do it quickly," she said. "Just around one hour. I've sold around ten of these cubs the past six months," Van promised the "customer."

Van said a 2 kilogram tiger penis sells for around VND6 million ($308).

For an extra VND2million ($103) she'll throw in the eyes and gall bladder as well.

She only sells to people who have been introduced to her by regular customers and always asks a stand-in to represent her during the first transaction.

The woman usually changes the meeting place at the last minute to avoid any chances of getting trapped.

Her goods are brought from Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Van said they are all "authentic wild products."

A cub corpse viewed by Tuoi Tre appeared to have been felled by a pair of bullet wounds.

Van also sold other wild animals such as bears and copperhead snakes.

A pair of copperheads totalling more than three kilograms were priced at VND1.7 million ($87). The bear's leg was offered for around VND5 million ($256).

Van said she earned VND1.5-2 million of profit per item.

The woman organized a meeting with a customer on Saturday at Thanh Da peninsula area in Binh Thanh District to sell a cub, and the copperheads for around VND800,000 a kilo.

According to the Tuoi Tre investigation, Van's headquarter is based on Trung My Tay 13 street in Ho Chi Minh City's District 12.

The animals are transported from the outlying Hoc Mon District or Tay Ninh Province on the Cambodian border to the headquarters. There they are distributed via public buses, xe om (motorbike taxis), motorbikes and cars.

A refridgerated truck stopped at the house last Thursday, and around five young men arrived to carry nets full of snakes inside. Blood was dripping from the nets.

More than one hour later, a 16-seat car whose windows had been covered with black paper, drove onto the property. It parked for several minutes while the men loaded it with goods and left.

Van owns at least two other store houses in the neighborhood, Tuoi Tre has found.

Following the paper's investigation, Ho Chi Minh City police on Tuesday raided Van's store houses and seized numerous wild animals and parts of them including what they believe to be a 12 kilogram frozen tiger cub and endangered pangolin.

Nguyen Van Luu, deputy head of the city Forest Management Department, said all of the items would be taken in for testing. If they proved to be real wildlife, the case would be transferred to criminal police, Luu said.

According to a recent analysis of international enforcement data, parts of at least 1,069 tigers have been seized over the past decade in Asia's 13 tiger range countries including Vietnam.

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