China Dropped Ban On Products From Tigers And Rhinos
China has dropped its ban on products from tigers and rhinos in a move conservationists have dubbed a "death warrant" for the endangered species.
The reversal was not officially announced, but revealed in a cabinet notice that detailed plans to "control" the trade of rhino horns and tiger bones.
Trade will be restricted to products from farmed animals, for use in "medical research or in healing", the note said.
"Under the special circumstances, regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened, and any related actions will be authorised," it continued.
"The trade volume will be strictly controlled."
The news follows revelations, from conservation organisation WWF, that 60% of all fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals were wiped out by human activity between 1970 and 2014.
An estimated 3,890 tigers remain in the wild while the global population of wild rhinos, not native to China, is thought to be around 30,000.
Sales of tiger and rhino products, often used in traditional medicines, have been banned in China since 1993 following pressure from conservationists to protect fast-disappearing species.
Conservationists said dropping the ban and allowing for farmed trade would create a cover for poachers and smugglers to continue hunting animals in the wild and selling their body parts.
"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," Iris Ho, a wildlife protection specialist at the Humane Society, said.
"With this announcement, the Chinese government has signed a death warrant for imperilled rhinos and tigers in the wild who already face myriad threats to their survival."
China has defended the move, arguing that the change aims to fill gaps in past regulations while enhancing enforcement and claiming the protection of endangered species has been its "consistent position".
"I've noticed the concerns of the relevant parties about this and we are willing to step up exchanges with other countries in this aspect," foreign minister Lu Kang said.
China had been praised for taking steps to protect endangered creatures after banning all trade in ivory this year, but demand for the product is thought to be a major driver behind the mass slaughter of African elephants.
"With wild tiger and rhino populations at such low levels and facing numerous threats, legalised trade in their parts is simply too great a gamble for China to take," Margaret Kinnaird, WWF wildlife practice leader, said.
The stated change in the law may not make a huge difference: Despite the legal ban, tiger farms have long been tolerated in China and the bones of the creatures harvested and sold, according to UK charity the Environmental Investigation Agency.
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