From Blood of the Tiger: A Story of Conspiracy, Greed, and the Battle to Save a Magnificent Species

Someone had tipped off the ITV News crew. Their target was in the open. Three young men carrying a video camera, a long microphone, and a fistful of documents spilled out of a van and hurried along the hotel’s driveway.

The sun was warm at 4,600 feet in the Kathmandu Valley that mid-April afternoon in 2007 as I mingled during a coffee break at the International Tiger Symposium. Most participants gravitated toward the balcony above the pool and manicured gardens. Conversations in Nepali, Hindi, Chinese, and English mixed with birdsong.

The uninvited trio swept across the lobby toward our gathering. They were locked onto a Chinese man in his mid-forties who looked as if he’d just come off a golf course—Zhou Weisen, CEO of Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, by then China’s largest tiger farm. He had come with the Dragon to lobby for reopening the tiger trade. John Ray, Beijing correspondent for the British television network, had been rebuffed in his efforts to interview Zhou in China.

Ray wanted to ask the businessman about a dish served at a restaurant on his premises. So the cherub-faced English newsman with a riot of blond hair had followed him to Nepal. Ray, his cameraman, and a Chinese interpreter approached Zhou with audio and video rolling. The tiger farmer took a bite from a shortbread cookie and sipped lukewarm tea, ignoring his sudden entourage.

“Mr. Zhou? John Ray from ITV News. We want to talk to you about your tiger farm.”

Zhou refused to look at him, flicking his free hand as if waving off a fly.

“This is a DNA test that proves the meat you sell in the restaurant is tiger meat,” Ray said, trying to show Zhou some papers.

Zhou’s brow was pinched as he finally turned toward his questioner. “You tampered with it!” he shouted in Chinese, stabbing the air with his index finger. “You made it up! Wherever you got the tiger meat, it has nothing to do with us!”

As Zhou stormed away, Ray asked him if he knew that selling tiger meat was against Chinese and international law. Zhou stopped, reared back, and tossed his tea into the ITV camera lens. Then he smashed his teacup on the stone floor and delivered a powerful swipe at Ray’s interpreter with the hand still holding a saucer.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Ray said with a calm he surely didn’t feel. A couple of Nepalese reached for Zhou, urging him to back down. Just as it seemed he would, he pivoted to throw a punch toward Ray’s cameraman.