The Future of Tigers and Rhinos

China reverses ban of tiger and rhino parts in medicine

by Sarah Cassidy

Staff Animal Activist

The Chinese government has reversed a 25-year ban that will now allow for the use of tiger and rhino parts in medicine. The ban was established in 1993 as a way to protect the endangered tiger and rhino populations. In 2010, the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies outlawed the use of any parts from endangered species claiming that there was no evidence of medical gains from tiger bones or rhino horns. With only 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers left in the wild, experts are worried that the demands for these animals will rise; this will make it harder to protect these animals from extinction.
The Chinese government claims that the use of the tigers and rhinos will solely be used for medical purposes by qualified doctors. The usage of these parts are restricted to those individuals who are in critical condition and may not have any other medical alternatives. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on utilizing all natural ingredients. Many long-established remedies mix tiger and rhino parts with herbs and spices. While evidence is lacking, some Chinese doctors suspect that tiger bones can be used to help treat arthritis. Similarly, they also suppose that powder produced from rhino horns can be used to treat cerebrovascular diseases. Wines, powders, pills and creams will soon be created from these animals.
China also claims that the bones and horns of these animals will only be used from farm-raised tigers and rhinos. These animals will not be killed but will only be used once they die of natural causes. Thousands of tigers are currently being held in Chinese farms, zoos and circuses. Many of these farms have had scandals in the last few years dealing with the unlawful selling of tiger parts. During the 1993 ban, there was still a prominent black market for animal bones and skins because there is no way to tell the difference between farmed or wild animal bones. With the removal of the ban, there is no question that many poachers will be taking advantage of the system. It will become much easier for poachers to hide behind legal trade and promote their businesses. Experts predict that the reverse of the ban will increase the supply and the demand of animal parts. While China seems to have a set plan in place, many environmentalists are concerned that the rules will not be followed for long.
The turn of the Chinese government has led many to believe our world is regressing in terms of environmental issues. Recently, China was noted for increasing renewable energy, attempting to create more national parks, and banning ivory sales. Similarly, China has made significant steps in enforcing the 1993 ban by educating the public on environmental issues, increasing law enforcement and providing alternatives to tiger and rhino parts. With these actions, many began to believe that China was becoming a environmental power and a promoter of conservation. However, with the reversal of the ban, conservationists are confused and infuriated. The World Wildlife Foundation stated that China’s decision is an “enormous setback” in the environmental world and could have huge effects on the ecosystem as a whole. With more species becoming endangered every day, many are working to protect our world’s fauna and flora. China’s actions could greatly change the progress many have made over the last few years and could influence other countries to water down their own environmental laws. While human health may benefit, it is hard to know how much longer tigers and rhinos will exist.

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