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Le­gal­is­ing the use of bones for medic­i­nal pur­poses could lead to in­creased poach­ing.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Le­gal­is­ing the use of tiger bones could lead to in­creased poach­ing

Cam­paign­ers have called on the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to re­verse fully its decision to le­galise the use of tiger bones and rhino horns, from cap­tive­bred an­i­mals, for medic­i­nal pur­poses.

The Global Tiger Fo­rum, which rep­re­sents seven tiger-range coun­tries, re­leased a joint state­ment with WWF India say­ing the order “could have dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts on ef­forts to con­serve tigers and rhi­nos in the wild.”

Ac­cord­ing to Deb­bie Banks of the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (EIA), de­spite the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment ban­ning all trade in tiger and rhino body parts in 1993, the farm­ing of tigers for their bones and skin has ef­fec­tively been tol­er­ated since 2005.

The order to le­galise the farm­ing of tigers and rhi­nos for body parts came in Oc­to­ber 2018, but by Novem­ber there was a state­ment, at­trib­uted to State Council ex­ec­u­tive deputy sec­re­tary­gen­eral Ding Xue­dong, in which he said that “the is­suance of the de­tailed reg­u­la­tions for im­ple­men­ta­tion has been post­poned after study.”

But Banks isn’t cel­e­brat­ing just yet. “The Oc­to­ber order has not been re­pealed or re­versed,” she says, “but this is very am­bigu­ous. What does ‘after study’ mean? We’re not sure.”

She says the EIA op­poses the trade in tiger and rhino body parts from cap­tive-bred an­i­mals, be­cause it per­pet­u­ates the de­sir­abil­ity of these prod­ucts and stim­u­lates de­mand. “Where you ex­pand that de­mand, then you risk in­creas­ing the poach­ing and traf­fick­ing of wild tigers and rhi­nos. And when it comes to con­sumers us­ing bones for medic­i­nal pur­poses, un­for­tu­nately, there is a pref­er­ence for those from wild tigers.”

There are es­ti­mated to be more than 5,000 tigers in cap­tive fa­cil­i­ties across China – while the en­tire world’s wild pop­u­la­tion is as few as 3,500. One farm, founded in the 1980s, is known to have more than

1,000 an­i­mals. James Fair

FIND OUT MORE

Read the EIA’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into China’s tiger body-part trade: bit.ly/chi­natiger­trade

Tigers are En­dan­gered and il­le­gal hunt­ing is already a ma­jor threat. Be­low: tiger and rhino body parts for sale.

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