Back Society » Environment » Dark Time Looms Over Wildlife as China Reverses 25-Year Ban on Rhino Horn, Tiger Bone

Dark Time Looms Over Wildlife as China Reverses 25-Year Ban on Rhino Horn, Tiger Bone

The government's reversal on a 25-year ban may prove to be ruinous for the preservation of the endangered species.

In a statement released on Monday, the Chinese government announced that it will now allow powdered rhino horn and tiger bones to be used for healing and research purposes. It specifically outlined: "Powdered forms of rhino horn and bones from dead tigers can only be used in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine." The material must come only from captive, farmed animals and not those kept in zoos.

The international community reacted with outrage, citing the disastrous effect the move will have on already precarious global populations. Iris Ho, senior specialist for Wildlife Program and Policy at Humane Society International said: “With this announcement, the Chinese government has signed a death warrant for imperilled rhinos and tigers in the wild who already face myriad threats to their survival...This is a devastating blow to our ongoing work to save species from cruel exploitation and extinction, and we implore the Chinese government to reconsider.”

Chinese authorities gave no explanation for the move, though many speculate that it is aimed at boosting the country's traditional Chinese medicine industry which is already valued at US$100 billion with more than 500,000 medical practitioners. The government has long aimed to raise its profile internationally, placing it alongside Western treatments and thus improving China's global influence. A related increase in the presence of lucrative domestic farms has also been cited as a reason for the policy change. 

Lifting the ban comes with numerous causes for concern. Experts fear that attempts to foster consumption of farmed animals will undoubtedly encourage illegal poaching to meet increasing demand. There is virtually no way to distinguish between legal and illegal parts and not even clear understanding of how many captive rhinos and tigers live in China. Moreover, authorities have displayed dubious ability to effectively police the black market. As Ho explains, "It sets up what is essentially a laundering scheme for illegal tiger bone and rhino horn to enter the marketplace and further perpetuate the demand for these animal parts."

Allowing the animals to be consumed, even if they are "ethically" raised, also convolutes norms surrounding human relationships with endangered animals. It potentially hinders other preservation efforts including China's recent ban on the sale of elephant ivory. 

It's estimated that less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild and less than 30,000 rhinos across all five unique species. Neither tiger bones nor rhino horn have shown any scientifically-supported medicinal value.

[Photo via Flickr user marcus_jb1973

Related Articles:

China Vows to End Ivory Trade in 2017

Vietnamese-Thai Wildlife Kingpin Arrested in Thailand for Smuggling $1m Worth of Rhino Horn

Celebrity Endorsements Might Be the Key to Combating Poaching in Asia, Campaign Shows

Related Articles

in Environment

1,300 Pine Trees in National Park Damaged in Illegal Resin Theft

Resin rapscallions pilfered from hundreds of pine trees in Tam Dao National Park.

in Environment

163 New Species Discovered in Southeast Asia: WWF Report

Good news for Southeast Asia's wildlife enthusiasts: scientists just announced that, in 2015, they discovered 163 new species in the Greater Mekong region.

in Environment

2 Bicyclists Set To Ride From Saigon To Paris To Raise Awareness Of Climate Change

On Thursday February 12, Simon Nelson and Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan will set off on a bicycle ride from Saigon to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) in order t...

in Environment

22 Photos That Reveal How Bad Pollution Has Become In China

While pollution is becoming a serious problem in Vietnam with reports of cancer villages and toxic canals popping up the press recently, we live in a natural utopia compared with the residents of Chin...

in Environment

3 Endangered Langurs Were Released Back Into the Wild in Ninh Binh

The trio of critically endangered Delacour's langurs (voọc mông trắng) had been at a conservation center in Cuc Phuong National Park.

in Environment

40 Dead Tiger Cubs Discovered in Tiger Temple Freezer

Last Wednesday, authorities made a grisly discovery while shutting down Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, recovering 40 dead tiger cubs from an on-site freezer.

Partner Content