n an extremely controversial move, China has suddenly loosened its 25-year ban on the scientific and medicinal use of tiger bones and rhinoceros horns.
Now, tiger bones and rhino horns can be prescribed for medical treatments by doctors who have been certified by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both items are infamous ingredients in TCM concoctions with tiger bones believed to help cure conditions like rheumatism and arthritis, along with erectile dysfunction, and rhino horns thought to reduce swelling and stop bleeding.
The move by the State Council is being portrayed by China as a tightening of restrictions to control the trade of tiger bones and rhino horns. In order to be used as medicine, tiger bones and rhino horns must come from farmed tigers and rhinos, according to the new regulation.
Of course, the obvious problem here is that it is virtually impossible to tell a farmed rhino or tiger from a poached one, especially as doctors will be allowed to acquire powdered forms of rhino horns and tiger bones for their treatments. In the past, Chinese zoos have been caught starving tigers in order to make money by turning them into tiger bone wine to sell on the black market.
Wildlife activists say that that the change will only help to bolster black market sales of the two items and come as a major setback to efforts aimed at protecting endangered tigers and rhinos in the wild.
“It is deeply concerning that China has reversed its 25-year-old tiger bone and rhino horn ban, allowing a trade that will have devastating consequences globally,” said the World Wildlife Fund. “Even if restricted to antiques and use in hospitals, this trade would increase confusion by consumers and law enforcers as to which products are and are not legal, and would likely expand the markets for other tiger and rhino products.”
China had originally banned the use and trade of tiger bones and rhino horns after joining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1993. In 2010, the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies said that there was no evidence of the claimed medical benefits of tiger bone. Likewise, no proof of the medical benefits of rhino horn has been presented as well.