Huynh Van Hai, of Thanh Canh Tourism Park in Binh Duong province, near Ho Chi Minh City, was sentenced on March 10, Education for Nature -- Vietnam (ENV) said in a statement.

Fourteen other people linked to his operation, including his son, received sentences ranging from probation to 30 months' jail, it said.

An official at Thuan An district court of Binh Duong province confirmed the sentence.

"We feel that Binh Duong authorities have taken a vital first step in ending illegal farming and trade of tigers in Vietnam," ENV founder Vu Thi Quyen said in the statement.

ENV said it conducted its own investigation last year into the alleged illegal trade of tigers born at Thanh Canh park. The probe indicated at least two other major tiger farmers were also involved in the illegal trade, it said.

ENV added that tigers have essentially disappeared from the wild in Vietnam but 100 are known to be in captivity, mostly on eight private farms.

Older Vietnamese people believe that the bones of tigers, boiled down to make glue, can help treat arthritis, the group said.

In 2007, the communist government allowed some private tiger farms in southern Vietnam to keep dozens of the endangered animals as they were better equipped than state zoos.

Agence France Presse - March 25, 2011