China in October moved to legalises the use of tiger and rhino parts in traditional Chinese medicine. Already the world’s top consumer of poached body parts from endangered animals in Africa and Asia has legalised the use of the animal’s body parts for ‘medicinal purposes’.
The government announcement reversed a ban imposed in 1993 and declared that harvested parts may be used in ‘medical research’ and traditional healing.
The statement explained that powdered forms of rhino horn and tiger bones may only be used in qualified ‘hospitals’ by qualified ‘doctors’ recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 2010 the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies issued a statement saying there was no evidence of any medical benefits to be derived from tiger bone or rhino horn.
According to the statement, the animal products may only be obtained from farms. But conservationists say this move may open the floodgates for a surge in illegal activity and threaten vulnerable animal populations. Presently, the trade in illegal wildlife and plant products is worth up to $70-213 billion annually according to the US based non-profit organisation Poaching Facts.
Rhino horn is currently worth $60,000/kg on the black market and has many uses from traditional Yemeni dagger handles to its main consumers in China and South Asia where powdered rhino horn has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years to treat fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders despite there being no evidence to show that it has any healing properties whatsoever.