On Monday, China’s State Council released a statement declaring that rhino and tiger parts from farmed animals can now be used "in medical research and healing" in "qualified hospitals by qualified doctors," which reverses a 1993 ban that was allowed to lapse. "There is absolutely no scientific data to prove that rhino horn is medicine," said Dr. Philip Muruthi, AWF Chief Scientist and VP of Species Protection. "We have a moral obligation to tell people the truth."
"Demand for rhino horn is killing more than 1,000 rhino each year," continued Muruthi. "The rhino horn trade is currently disallowed by CITES and should remain so. Allowing a legal trade will further jeopardize the already imperiled African rhino and will be used by criminal syndicates to mask their illegal trade so there will be no way of distinguishing legal and illegal rhino horn. We already know this to be true from China’s experience with elephant ivory."
Rhinos are targeted by poachers to meet the demand of Asia, where it’s incorrectly believed that rhino horn cures cancer and impotence in traditional medicine, and is also considered a status symbol of wealth. To counter this demand, AWF has boots on the ground in Africa with sniffer and tracker dogs to protect threatened species and track criminals, as well as detect animal parts being smuggled through strategic shipping ports and airports. AWF also conducts prosecutorial training to put poachers and traffickers behind bars where they belong, and partners with various organizations in China—like the Beijing Zoo—to educate the public about wildlife conservation.
AWF is concerned that the demand for tiger bone will further endanger the African lion as well since lion bone is now being targeted as a substitute for tiger bone.
"We commend China for banning the domestic ivory trade in 2017," said Muruthi. "But China's leadership in the world, and particularly its leadership in conservation, will be highly tainted by this decision." AWF President Kaddu Sebunya agreed and added, "We urgently call upon China to do the right thing and demonstrate its global leadership on this issue."
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