Farmed tiger bones, as well as rhino horn, will be allowed for medical, scientific or cultural purposes in China

DURBAN - THE Four Paws Animal Welfare Foundation SA is the latest organisation to join conservation and environmental groups across the globe which have expressed shock at China announcing that it will allow horn and bone products from captive bred rhinos and tigers to be traded for scientific, medical and/or cultural requirements.

On Monday, China made public a decision to permit the controlled sale of products from farmed rhinos and tigers, in effect reversing their 1993 ban on tiger bone and rhino horn trade.

Under purposes for scientific, medical and cultural requirements, the Chinese State Council will now, “under special circumstances, regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened and any related actions will be authorised, and the trade volume will be strictly controlled.”

This will include the use of powdered forms of rhino horn and bones from dead tigers to be allowed in qualified hospitals recognised by the State of Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Animal conservation bodies are concerned that opening such trade could lead to further demand, risking the source of such products moving from domestic farmed animals to endangered populations.

There was immediate reaction from bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, which has described the decision as “an enormous setback for wildlife conservation.”

“China’s decision to reopen a legalized trade in farmed tiger bone and rhino horn reverses 25 years of conservation progress in reducing the demand for these products in traditional Chinese medicine and improving the effectiveness of law enforcement,” said Leigh Henry, director of WWF-US Wildlife Policy.

On Wednesday, Four Paws South Africa urged international governments to put pressure on China.

“It is of great concern to note that a 25-year-old ban has been overturned with China now allowing domestic trade. Rhinos across the world are already under threat and are the victims of poaching, while tigers are bred in horrible conditions to exploit them for commercial purposes.

“CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) clearly states that tigers should not be bred for trade in their pats and derivatives, which raises the question ‘where will these animals come from ?’ This opens the door to devious practices and is of great concern to us,” said Fiona Miles, Four Paws Country Director.

Last year China banned trade in ivory, which was welcomed by conservation bodies as elephant populations are under increasing threat from poachers across Africa.