*UPDATE* Following concerns from a number of international conservation organizations, China has postponed the reversal on rhino horn and tiger bone. 

The Chinese government has reversed a 25 year ban prohibiting the use of rhino horn and tiger bone in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

According to the The State Council, the reversal is for “medical research or in healing” and specifies that only certified hospitals and doctors – and only rhinos and tigers raised in captivity – will be harvested. At such a pivotal time for both of these endangered species, this reversal has the potential to fuel the black market trade even further.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are many benefits to TCM, and many practitioners do not utilize endangered species parts. However, for those that do, there is a small but highly profitable market for a variety of treatments that are marketed to cure a number of common ailments.

Official Statement on the Reversal of the Ban on Trade in Rhino and Tiger Parts by China

“UN Environment considers the renegotiation of existing bans on trade in rhino and tiger parts – for any reason – an extremely alarming development that threatens decades of hard work to implement laws and regulations to protect these critically endangered animals.

Tigers and rhinos are among the most threatened species on our planet, with numbers in the wild dwindling year after year. They unequivocally need more protection, not less.

For years, scientists, policymakers and environmental activists have been moving to close traffic loopholes, minimize the market and halt poaching. Reconsidering these hard-fought laws and regulations on the trade in endangered wildlife products opens the door for countries to value economic gains over environmental protection under the guise of “regulated” trade.

To allow rhino horn and tiger bones to re-enter the market also falsely indicates that these products have medical value. We don’t know the impact this will have on stimulating demand.

Experience shows how difficult it is to curb a black market for these products when a legal market also exists.

Since 2016, China’s ban on commercial ivory trade has been a powerful catalyser to curb demand for wildlife products, making this decision difficult to comprehend. In the face of biodiversity and wildlife being under threat all around the world, member states, scientists and activists need to present a united front and voice a strong objection to all trade in endangered wildlife products. “

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