Tiger trade ban 'won't last forever'

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-19 06:56

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.

Related readings:
China sees 84 rare tiger births in '07
Ban on trade in tiger parts stays
China urged not to lift tiger trade ban
Tiger shows its predacity
"The ban 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.

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours