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Biodiversity & Environment

China Lifts Ban on Trade of Tiger Bones and Rhino Horns

  • 02 Nov 2018
  • 7 min read

China has lifted a 25-year old ban on the scientific and medical use of tiger bones and rhinoceros horn.

  • According to conservationists, this lifting of ban would have devastating consequences globally for the endangered species.
  • Tiger bone and rhino horns are used in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and are used to treat insomnia and gout.


  • Tiger parts were removed from the official TCM pharmacopoeia, a list regulated by China’s health ministry, when the country first banned the trade of tiger parts in 1993.
  • In 2010, the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies, an international non-profit established in Beijing, urged its members to stop using tiger parts or parts from other endangered wildlife.
  • China, under President Xi Jinping, has sought to portray itself as more environment-friendly, passing stricter protections over wildlife and natural resources.
  • In 2016, China banned the sale of ivory which was believed to be a cure for everything from cancer to sore throats in order to reduce poaching of elephants.
  • However, the more stringent regulations have come into conflict with Chinese medicine diplomacy, an effort to use TCM to expand the country’s soft power globally.
  • Further, higher living standards have increased Chinese demand for animal parts, valued for their supposed life-extending powers. A recent fervour for ejiao, a “blood-enriching” gelatin made from animal hides, has spurred scrutiny over donkeys, mainly from Africa, slaughtered annually to meet Chinese demand.

India's Concern

  • Authorities and wildlife conservationists in Assam are concerned about the detrimental effect on the state’s one-horned rhino after China has lifted a 25-year-old ban on use and trade of rhino horn and tiger bone- products.
  • According to the latest count, Kaziranga National Park in Assam has 2,413 one-horned rhinos and in 2018, five rhinos fell to poachers. Rhino horns poached from here will turn up in China’s markets as ‘legal’ products. This is an indirect way to open up markets for poached products.
  • This might give a boost to rhino poachers and traffickers of horns, who might attempt a spurt in their activities with the hope of laundering the products as legally acceptable in China.
  • Multiple researches and study papers have established that rhino horns poached from Assam land up in China through Myanmar. A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2017 noted that Myanmar’s Shan state was a notorious backdoor wildlife trafficking hub through which rhino horns are taken to China.
  • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a leading NGO in wildlife conservation and endangered species, has urged China to maintain the ban, adding that the trade will have devastating consequences globally.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) clearly states that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

  • WWF is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961, working in the field of wilderness preservation, and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
  • Its Headquarters is in Gland, Switzerland.
  • Its mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
  • The Living Planet Report published every two years by WWF is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

  • CITES is an international agreement between governments.
  • It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union).
  • Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties but it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
  • The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.
  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.
  • A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit.
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