Animal rights groups are up in arms after several Chinese tiger parks pressed the government to lift its ban on the trade in tiger products.
Conservation International, TRAFFIC, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Save the Tiger Fund called for a joint meeting in Beijing Thursday to urge the government to resist the pressure.
The groups expressed concern that China's robust internal market for tiger bones would continue to threaten the animals in the wild.
Representatives warned that proposals by tiger parks to legalize the trade in tiger parts and derivatives could stimulate an increase in demand, seriously undermining China's decade-long campaign to raise public awareness of the need to protect the animals.
The call came after the government announced that its first regulation on the trade of endangered species would take effect Friday.
"We hope that China, in the spirit of this new regulation and the upcoming 2008 green Olympics, will reiterate its commitment to the 1993 ban on the trade of all tiger derivatives from all sources, and thereby continue to play a responsible leadership role in protecting the world's few wild remaining tigers," said Grace Ge, Asia director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Many Chinese believe tiger bones to be an effective treatment for illnesses such as rheumatism, authorities said.
Conservation groups estimate the number of tigers in the wild may have dropped well below 5,000 due to the loss of habitat and poaching. Most of China's remaining wild tigers are found in the northeast near the Russian border.
"In China, it is estimated that fewer than 20 wild tigers remain in the northeast, and about 30 roam in southwest China along its borders with Myanmar and Laos," said Xie Yan, a professor with the China Academy of Sciences.
China's new regulations help protect wildlife listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which China signed in 1981.
(Shanghai Daily September 1, 2006)