China relaxes ban on tiger and rhino parts for 'special' purposes

Siberian tiger crouches on top of a tourist bus at a branch of Harbin Siberian Tigers Breeding Center in Shenyang in northeast China's Liaoning province. China says it will allow trading in products made from enda

China reverses ban on wildlife body parts for medical and cultural use

A black market for the ingredients, which can fetch soaring prices, has continued to thrive in China despite the 1993 ban and perennial ad campaigns by conservation groups featuring Chinese celebrities such as Yao Ming, the former professional basketball star.

The move came to light a day after WWF had recently tweeted that about 60 per cent of the animals on the Earth has been wiped out by humans.

"Regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened. and the trade volume will be strictly controlled", the council said in a statement.

Tiger bone and rhino horn are used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite a lack of evidence of their effectiveness in treating illness and the effect on wild populations. It is thought that feeding on tiger's paws gives the patient energy and vitality; rhino horns, crushed and drunk in special potions, would guarantee sexual potency.

Meanwhile, the number of rhinos is now around 30,000 in the wild across all five species, among these 3 have been classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The ruling also allows antique horn and tiger parts to be used in cultural exchanges with the authorities' approval although they can not go on open sale.

The Chinese move "seriously jeopardizes the future survival of wild tigers by stimulating demand for their body parts instead of eradicating demand", said Debbie Banks, Tiger Campaign Leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency. according to National Geographic.

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Scientific research such as genetic studies that require tiger or rhino products may submit applications, and the products should be used only for the goal specified.

"Not only could this lead to the risk of legal trade providing cover to illegal trade, this policy will also stimulate demand that had otherwise declined since the ban was put in place", said Margaret Kinnaird, wildlife practice leader at the World Wildlife Fund. Likewise, no proof of the medical benefits of rhino horn has been presented as well.

China prohibited the trade of rhino horn and tiger bones in 1993 but a black market has flourished, with many products entering the country through Vietnam, according to an investigation conducted a year ago by the Elephant Action League conservation group.

China did not explain the thinking behind its new policy, which seems to fly in the face of the country's recent implementation of a ban on the sale and processing of ivory. In 2010, the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies released a statement urging members not to use tiger bone or any other parts from endangered species. "With wild tiger and rhino populations at such low levels and facing numerous threats, legalised trade in their parts is simply too great a..."

According to the WWF, there are fewer than 4,000 tigers living in the wild worldwide.

"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".

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