Campaigners welcome China U-turn over rhino and tiger products

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 13, 2018

"The "three strict bans" will continue to be enforced: strictly ban the import and export of rhinos, tigers and their by-products; strictly ban the sale, purchase, transport, carrying and mailing of rhinos, tigers and their by-products; and strictly ban the use of rhino horns and tiger bones in medicine", Ding said.

Environmental groups said lifting of the ban would be disastrous for endangered rhinoceros and tiger populations, even if the animal parts were only sourced from those bred in captivity.

"I would like to reiterate that the Chinese government has not changed its stance on wildlife protection and will not ease the crackdown on illegal trafficking and trade of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts and other criminal activities", State Council spokesman Ding Xuedong told the Xinhua news agency.

"Illegal acts will be dealt with severely", Ding said. Ding's comments did not address whether the postponement meant the decision would be revived. China has also long tolerated the farming of tigers and the semi-legal sale of their parts.

Late last month, authorities said they would allow trading in products made from tigers and rhinos under "special circumstances", bringing condemnation from conservation groups. Farming of non-native rhinos is not known in China but the changing law raised speculation it was being planned.

China's authoritarian Communist Party-led government rarely responds to global pressure and the reversal appeared to reflect concerns over the country's reputation as a supporter of environmental preservation.

"It's a positive sign that China has heard and responded to the overwhelming concerns from the worldwide community", Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.

China had provoked worldwide furor last month when it announced its decision to ease its 1993 ban on rhino horn and tiger bone.

"To truly protect tigers and rhinos we need an official written proclamation from the State Council that permanently reinstates a complete ban".

China banned trade and use of rhino horns and tiger bones in 1993 when the wild-tiger population in its territory dwindled to fewer than 100. "Full stop", Iris Ho, senior specialist for Wildlife Programme and Policy at Humane Society International was quoted as saying in a news release.

"This is a devastating blow to our ongoing work to save species from cruel exploitation and extinction, and we implore the Chinese government to reconsider", Ho said.

An estimated 3 890 tigers remain alive in the wild, according to a report presented during the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in 2016.

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