Rhinos and tigers, oh my! China says it will allow trading in products made from endangered tigers and rhinos under “special circumstances.” The ruling reverses a 1993 ban and brings strong criticism from conservation groups.
China’s Cabinet issued a notice this week. The announcement avoids mentioning any change in the law. It says instead that the government would “control” the trade and that rhino horns and tiger bones could be gotten only from farmed animals for use in “medical research or in healing.”
Traditional Chinese medicine uses tiger bone and rhino horn—without proof that they treat illness or concern for the damage to wild animal populations. The same is true for elephant ivory. Chinese demand for it is blamed for driving the slaughter of African elephants, though Beijing placed a ban on all ivory trade starting this year.
Despite the 1993 tiger products ban, China has long allowed tiger farms, which harvest the bones of dead animals and promote their sale for “medicinal purposes,” according to a study by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a British nonprofit.
The World Wildlife Fund says overturning the ban would have “devastating consequences globally” by allowing poachers and smugglers to hide behind legal trade in tusks and bones.
An estimated 3,890 tigers remain alive in the wild, according to a 2016 report. Thousands are also believed to be bred on Chinese farms.
Studies put the population of wild rhinos at fewer than 30,000. Poaching reduces that number drastically each year.
Iris Ho, a wildlife program and policy specialist, says, “It sets up what is essentially a laundering scheme for illegal tiger bone and rhino horn to enter the marketplace and further perpetuate the demand for these animal parts.”
What does it mean that China’s new ban would allow poachers and smugglers to “hide behind legal trade in tusks and bones”? What should a Christian's response to this story be?
(A Siberian tiger crouches on top of a tourist bus in Shenyang, China. AP Photo)