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How best to protect wild tigers, rhinos?

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-02 07:13

Editor's note: The State Council, China's Cabinet, has released a notice on strictly regulating the use of rhinoceros and tiger products, in which only those from "farms" or dead animals in captivity for purposes such as scientific research, life-saving medical treatment and cultural exchanges can be used under stringent requirements. Why have the authorities revised the regulation? And how will this decision affect wildlife protection? Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:

Balancing use with protection

Qiao Xinsheng, a professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law

Animal protection groups and conservationists have reacted to the revision of the regulation saying it could lead to the reopening of trade in rhino and tiger products and significantly undermine the protection of the two animals.

As one of the countries that has implemented a specific wildlife protection law, China has invested much and gained valuable experience in protecting wildlife, particularly endangered species. For instance, its strenuous efforts to breed giant pandas and Siberian tigers have yielded tangible results. Also, its latest ban on the trade in ivory is much stricter than that of many developed countries.

The revision of the regulation is actually a move to better protect the two species. For instance, the version of the 1993 notice didn't mention products made of tiger fur or tiger meat. And this notice announces a total ban on any illegal use or trade in such products, as well as the illegal medical use of rhino horns or tiger bones. It specifically stipulates that only the horns from the rhinos in captivity, or the bones of dead tigers in captivity are allowed to be used for medical purposes under strict conditions.

Chinese philosophy emphasizes the harmonious co-existence of human beings and wildlife. Chinese people have always revered and protected wildlife while using their body parts to benefit humans. As such, the use of some wildlife products in traditional Chinese medicine under special conditions to treat human diseases is still accepted by Chinese society.

Contrary to speculation that the revision of the regulation will open the trade in rhino and tiger parts, the move is aimed at curbing the misuse of animal products through more stringent stipulations on their use.

Wildlife protection must not be weakened

Zhang Li, a professor at Beijing Normal University

The revision allows the use of rhino horns and tiger bones under strict conditions, in medical research and treatment. China banned the trade in and use of rhino horns and tiger bones in medicine in 1993, and the two items can no longer be found in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia.

History shows the ban on the trade in tiger products helped check the decline in the number of tigers in the wild. Thus the revision may pose a threat to the protection of rhinos and tigers, whose numbers have been continuously declining in recent years.

Also, the move could affect China's reputation for its total ban on ivory trade in early 2018, which has earned widespread praise for the country for its efforts to protect the environment and biodiversity.

Reflecting progress in management

Tang Xiaoping, deputy director of the Design Institute of Investigation and Planning, the State Forestry and Grassland Administration

The decision to allow products made from non-wild rhinos and tigers for medicinal and other specified purposes reflects an improvement in the management and technology to protect the environment and ecology. Thanks to technology, the authorities have learned to distinguish wild animals in captivity from animals in the wild. It has also helped them to enact more sophisticated and detailed regulations to strengthen wildlife protection.

In the 1990s, wild animals in captivity were not under the protected list-only wild species were protected. Today, people can easily identify between wildlife and animals in captivity. In addition, the progress made in breeding wild animals in captivity and effective conservation measures have greatly helped wildlife protection.

Furthermore, traditional Chinese medicine has played a significant role in Chinese people's lives, healing the diseases of people. The revision of the regulation mirrors the demand for rhino and tiger products in TCM, whose use has remained unabated in traditional medicine. Besides, the use of those products is restricted to animals in captivity under strengthened monitoring and law enforcement.

If rhino horns and tiger bones can be used for medicinal purposes, and their use causes zero harm to the two endangered species in the wild, why should we oppose it?

What is important is full implementation and effective management of the wildlife protection law.

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