China will not promise to maintain a 14-year ban on the trade of bones from
captive-bred tigers for traditional medicine, a senior official said yesterday.
"The ban is in place," said Wang Wei, deputy director of the department of
wildlife conservation of the State Forestry Administration in an exclusive
interview with China Daily. "But the issue is open for review."
He added that the administration will make a decision after conducting
comprehensive studies on whether the lifting of the ban would reduce poaching
and help conservation of tigers in the wild globally.
won't be there forever, given the strong voices from tiger farmers, experts and
society," Wang said.
In China, about 50 tigers live in the wilderness and around 5,000 in
captivity. In farms, some 1,000 are born each year, roughly the same number as
those which have died naturally over the years.
"It will be a waste if the resources of dead tigers are not used for
traditional medicine," Wang said.
In Chinese medicine, tiger parts are used as cures for illnesses ranging from
colds to rheumatism.
Wang made the comments in response to criticism from international wildlife
groups on China reviewing its ban on domestic trade in tiger parts.
At the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species held in The Hague last week, the groups expressed the fear that any
sales could drive the wild cats to extinction.
Wang said Chinese research suggests that the trade of bones from tigers that
are bred in captivity and die of natural causes will not affect the conservation
of wild tigers.
Authorized breeding and trade might, in fact, benefit the survival of the
tiger, he said, citing experts.
One of the reasons, he argued, is that the species will be extinct if they
didn't reach a certain number.
China's experience proves that using captive-bred resources is one of the
most effective strategies for the conservation of wildlife, he said.
If research results prove beneficial to wildlife conservation, policies to
use bones from tigers bred in captivity will be formulated, he added.
Controls will include strict monitoring and management of the processing of
tiger bones to prevent hunting of tigers in the wild, the official said.
The DNA samples of all tigers in captivity will be stored and the animals
will be tagged with chips under their skins; and permits and special labeling
will be required for the medicines, Wang said.
If tiger bones were available through legitimate
channels, people will not risk penalties to hunt in the wild, he said.