Be wary of using tiger bone glue

Date: 24th June, 2010

Tiger bone glue purchased in Vietnam for hundreds of dollars is usually fake according to zoological expert Professor Pham Trong Anh.

Condensed tiger glue. Represent photo.

How genuine is tiger bone glue?

Professor Pham Trong Anh, President of Vietnam’s Animal Association, is a regular guest of the Environmental Police (EP) Department whenever cases of wildlife smuggling, trade or tiger bone glue making operations are exposed. Professor Anh wants to warn consumers who buy tiger bone glue with the hope of curing medical problems that they are probably being deceived and wasting their money. Professor Anh said: “I have tested hundreds of samples of  tiger bone glue and more than 70% of the samples were not genuine”.

In January 2009, the EP discovered a tiger bone glue making operation in a Hanoi suburb. Professor Anh tested a sample and confirmed that it was leopard bone and not tiger bone being used to make the glue. Tigers are more expensive than leopards on the black market so traders often pump a leopard’s body full with a mixture of water and agar to make it bigger and heavier. A leopard weighing 40kg can tip the scales anywhere between 80-90kgs after being pumped full of the substance. Its’ hair is then surgically removed, a black horizontal line is painted down its body, and is consequently passed off as a tiger.  

Traders also ‘turn’ other animal bones into that of a tiger by carving, sharpening, grinding and bending bones. In 2009, authorities in Thai Nguyen Province discovered a tiger glue making operation, but when Professor Anh tested the glue, it was found to be made from bear bones. Before the Tet holiday in 2010, Professor Anh was asked by the Hanoi EP Office to investigate another case. According to the glue maker, there was approximately 30kg of tiger bone in the pot. Market costs meant that the glue maker could fetch up to 20 million VND per 100mg of the glue, yet Professor Anh could find no trace of tiger bone in the sample. Subsequent DNA tests revealed that the tiger bone glue was in fact made from pig, cow and serrow bones.

Tiger bone glue mixed with medicine

Scientists have acknowledged that tiger bone glue is one of the rarest and most expensive products used in traditional medicine, and wealthy consumers do not mind paying for it. However, it is not suitable for everyone. According to traditional medicine guides, pure tiger bone glue is very strong in enhancing one’s masculinity, so those who are physically weak, are ill, underweight or suffer from dizziness or tinnitus should not use tiger glue. People who have high blood pressure are prohibited from using tiger bone glue.

Professor Anh states that some negligent traders tend to mix drugs such as antiphlogistics and analgesics with tiger bone glue to create powerful medicines. Arthritic sufferers often look to medicines such as these as a cure and feel better very quickly after using them, but after prolonged use their arthritis often gets worse because the drug is only masking the pain of the arthritis, not addressing the disease itself.

Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV.

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