From - www.cropwatch.org
As the July 2005 edition of "The Economist" declares the obvious that "China
is behind almost everything going on in the world economy", we also find
that the total market for Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) ingredients
has been put at between $6 billion and $20 billion USD - these figures
taking into account both legal & illegal trading (CCN 2003). It is not
difficult to see therefore that the opportunity for black-market ingredient
trading is profound.
A recent BBC News story points to "China's insatiable demands as a global
consumer are putting ever more pressure on the country's natural resources"
(Anon 2005), but more than this, the report maintains that China's massive
appetite has placed it "at the centre of the world raw materials economy".
Timber-theft by China on a billion dollar scale has been the subject of
investigation by the UK-based Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA), and
the Indonesian campaigning group Telapak, who suggest that illegal logging
operated by criminal syndicates are rapidly stripping Asia of its last
substantial forests. Investigators reported that "Chinese factories process
one stolen Indonesian log every minute of every working day" (see
http://www.illegal-logging.info/documents.php). This follows the fall in
China's domestic timber production by a staggering 97% over the period
1997-2000 (EIA-Telpack 2005). As China halts internal deforestation, but
turns a blind eye to the entry of illegal timber. Huang Minren, a leading
poplar tree expert at the Nanjing Forestry University, reported that "rapid
economic development and rocketing living standards have stoked up demands
for lumber" (Anon 2005a).
But timber theft is not a particularly new phenomena: eco-vandalism in
neighbouring Tibet (indiscriminate felling of trees including cypress &
cedar forest to sell for higher prices in Beijing) had been on the agenda at
the 6th Tibet Peoples Political Consultative Conference in Lhasa back in
1995 (Green Tibet - Annual Newsletter 1996).
Deforestation is not the only unwanted consequence of China's huge
consumption of natural materials, and neither is it the only example of a
trend that shows China increasingly looking for new ways to replenish it's
raw material stocks. From illegally sourced tiger parts for use in TCM, to
the planting of 1 million transgenic (genetically engineered) poplar trees
(Clayton 2005) following losses caused by illegal logging within China
itself, China seems to be little affected by either international law or its
best ecological interests.
TRAFFIC reported on a forum held in Beijing to address issues connected with
TCM's impact on endangered species (CITES 2003), indicating the Chinese
Government and TCM practitioner's concerns. Progress on "chemical
alternative development" to musk, tiger bone and bear gall bladder, were
outlined by Guo Qingwu of the Dept of Drug Registration of State Drug
Administration, and Meng Xianlin, a member of the CITES authority in China,
suggested that "there is no necessary conflict between conserving wildlife
and using animals and plants as medicine, if such use is sustainable." Fine
words, but as we will see, the reality is that in many cases their use is
But now the media, at least, appears to be taking notice:
Use of Tiger parts in TCM.
§1. Indian Tigers Disappear
Several national newspapers (e.g. Gautam 2005, Randeep 2005) have carried
the story of one of the biggest conservation tragedies of our times: that
increasing numbers of tigers are disappearing overnight from national parks
in parts of India. Twenty six tigers (the entire reserve population) in the
Sariska Project Tiger Reserve in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan are
unaccounted for, since the last census taken six months ago. None of these
have been sighted since. More recently Vidal (2005) describes the internet
trading of tigers, gorillas and other endangered animals, reporting the
International Fund for Animal Welfare's estimate that 9,000 animals were
traded in one week recently by unscrupulous traders.
In another project in Rajasthan, the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, it is feared
that no more than 12 tigers remain, compared with the most recently
documented official figure of 35 to 47 (40 according to Randeep 2005).
Further embarrassment for Indian officials is provided by G.S. Rathore of
Pench Jungle camps in Madhya Pradesh, who has advised clients who want to
see tigers to go to the zoo - or to Africa. He puts the number of tigers in
the Pench reserve at 25, compared to the official figure of 58 (Johnson
2005). Earlier McGirk (McGirk 2004) had reported tigers being intercepted
on the way to China after being bred in Sariracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand
and illegally transported- presumably destined for ingredient use in TCM.
In similar vein, Indian Travel, a cultural wildlife tour operator has
quoted: "Since sightings are rare, we have stopped promoting Ranthambore or
Corbett as tiger attractions we tell clients not to come to India for only
tigers." (Ghosh 2005). Since the launch of the "Incredible India" campaign
by the India Tourism Ministry in 2002 to achieve, amongst other things, a
steady rise in visitors, the Industry will surely be fearing the
repercussions the tiger crisis will bring, and with it the embarrassing
realisation that "affluent eco-tourists" will be hard-pressed to catch any
sightings of tigers at all! Nor is this news entirely unpredictable.
§2. India's Officials React.
As news reports of the ever-declining wild tiger numbers gain momentum,
India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has belatedly responded by
announcing that he is setting up a national wildlife crime prevention bureau
"Since the launching of Project Tiger, "The current situation presents the
biggest crisis in the management of our wildlife," Singh reports in an
official statement (Johnson 2005).
'Project Tiger' was an initiative set up by Indira Gandhi in 1972/3
alongside an out-right ban on the hunting of tigers and the introduction of
a wildlife act. Project Tiger had a clear remit for the conservation of
tigers and has achieved more for the cause of the Bengal tiger than any
other project, receiving US $75 million per year from the government.
Ideally therefore, the Bengal tiger's survival prospects should be assured.
Although officers of Project Tiger have offered a variety of reasons for the
disappearances, the main causes are known, although little is ever revealed.
India does not even know the actual number of tigers left in the wild. The
2002 census claimed 3,600 but other estimates place the figure at fewer than
2,000. Official incompetence and corruption have in combination been accused
of producing inflated census reports and in general, covering up the true
numbers of tigers left in the wild (Gautam 2005). Ramesh (2005) points to
the widespread belief that "an aging forestry workforce and corrupt
officials" is at the heart of the problem; a tiger can fetch BSP £25,000 on
the international market.
§3. Uses of Tiger Bones in TCM.
Craig Kasnoff of the Endangered Earth Project claims that "The single
greatest threat of extinction that looms over most Asian wildlife and
especially the tiger, according to a number of experts in the field, are the
massive demands for traditional medicine" (Kasnoff 2005).
Without doubt, bone is the most valued part of the tiger for use in TCM, but
other parts are also used:
Tiger Body PartTCM Use
TailVarious skin conditions
BileChildren's conditions inc. meningitis
BrainLethargy and Acne
Dung/FaecesBoils, haemorrhoids & as a cure for Alcoholism
PenisLove potions / alleged aphrodisiac
Table 1: Tiger Body Parts and their Uses in TCM.
The international trade in wildlife products is booming alongside the
economies and personal incomes of Southeast Asia. Body parts from tigers and
a number of other species have traditionally been used in Chinese medicine
for thousands of years but as numbers of species have decreased, the
standard of living in SE Asia has increased which has resulted in remedies
becoming available to most people and demand has soared. Viewed by many as
status symbols, with such delicacies on offer to cure an ailing libido, such
as tiger penis soup, business is flourishing!
Tiger and other animal parts are not only used for prescription medicines in
China, but also for over the counter health formulations. These
over-the-counter medications are the most damaging to the tiger's ultimate
survival because China has found a new, ever-increasing market in American
and Canadian Chinese communities..
However, an increased demand for tiger parts exists throughout the world.
"China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Great Britain are
involved in the tiger trade. One of the biggest markets for tiger parts is
Japan where legislation bans trade in endangered species, but does not cover
products not readily recognizable, such as wine, pills and powders. Hong
Kong is the main importer of Chinese tiger products, accounting for nearly
half of its annual business." (Kasnoff 2005).
Despite the fact that China is an official member of CITES, it appears to
still be the main destination for Indian tiger parts. "In 1995, in India
alone, parts from 50 different tigers were discovered." (Kasnoff 2005).
Following on from WWF's estimate that one-third of the breeding-age female
tigers were lost between 1989 and 1991 in Bangladesh and Nepal, It seems
that China has been looking to India to replenish it's supplies.
TCM users abroad.
A joint project run by TRAFFIC East Asia, TRAFFIC North America, and WWF in
the United States was designed to identify who exactly consumed medicinal
products made from rhino and tiger parts, and to statistically determine the
demographics of the Chinese communities consuming TCM in Hong Kong and in
the United States. They found that use of TCM products appeared to be
greater in the United States than in Hong Kong - more than three out of four
Chinese-Americans have used TCM as compared to one out of three in Hong
Kong. Further, Hong Kong Chinese relied mostly on practitioners for TCM
advice, whilst Chinese-Americans relied primarily on family members. Both
communities showed a willingness to stop using or to decrease their use of
TCM containing species protected by law, although many said that it would
depend on the situation. Both groups displayed little knowledge of the
ingredients in the TCM they used, and further showed little interest in
obtaining knowledge before using such products. Both groups also stated
they did not see a connection between use of TCM containing endangered
species and the decline in those species. The survey results clearly
indicated that alternatives and substitutes would be acceptable if they were
equal in efficacy to prohibited endangered species products, and, most
notably, were recommended by a person whom the user trusts (TRAFFIC REPORT).
Why is Tiger bone such a sought-after medication?
The tiger is an ancient symbol of strength and power, and in the same way
that consuming parts of tiger penis is said to help an ailing libido, dried
tiger bones (Panthera tigris L. or also P. pardius L.) have traditionally
been used to treat arthritis and muscular atrophy. This way of thinking has
been part of the human consciousness for centuries although not firmly
established in medical/herbalist writings until the middle of the
seventeenth century. It is the idea that either "God" or "nature" has
marked everything he/she created with a sign or "signature". to show us mere
mortals the intended purpose for the creation. Of course "mere mortals" do
not always take other fundamental laws of nature into consideration
alongside this idea, such as "living in harmony" ,"balance" and respecting
all God's creatures.
Alternatives to Tiger bone.
There are many viable alternatives to tiger bones. Judy Mills, director of
the Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna In Commerce in East Asia
reported recently that ''Some of the substitutes have been proven effective
in laboratory tests by TCM specialists,'' Unfortunately, progress is slow
and alternatives involve using the bones of other animals, as such as this
example of misinformed advice given by the Australian Governments Dept. of
Environment & Heritage in the Proceedings of the Second Australian Symposium
on Traditional Medicine and Wildlife Conservation Melbourne Australia, March
"Tiger bone (Hu Gu, bone of Panthera tigris L.) In Chinese medicine, its
therapeutic action is related to the channel of liver and kidney.
Clinically, it was used for relieving pain (especially rheumatism),
strengthening muscles and bones and treating weakness of the lower limbs due
to deficiency of the liver and kidney (Zhang 1990). Dog bone and pig bone
has been determined to have the effects similar to tiger bone. Clinical
trials showed that the preparation, which contains dog bone as the major
component, has significant therapeutic effect on treating rheumatic
arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The total effective rate is 92.7 % (Chen
1982, p. 25). The experimental research showed that pig bone is a good
medicine to treat bone fracture and soft tissue injury. Pharmacological
research also showed that pig bone has anti-inflammatory and anti-oncotic
effects (Zhu and Deng 1992)." If that is the kind of advice governments are
proposing, then it is left to the power of organisations and educational
establishments to educate consumers. Pillinger (1998) reported that the
bones of the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) were being substituted as tigers
became more scarce, although it was thought that this creature is also
heading towards extinction with estimates of total numbers varying between
Attitudes among TCM practitioners and associations seem to differ. Cropwatch
has spoken to a number of TCM specialists who are actively against use of
animal parts and some who are actively campaigning against their use in TCM.
The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine along with six other
Chinese-American associations in San Francisco publish a list of
alternatives to tiger bone medicines. Viable alternatives to tiger bone
commonly used in TCM include common St. Paul's wort Siegesbeckia orientalis
var. pupbescens mulberry twigs Morus alba and Clematis root Clematis
chinensis (Li 2005).
A further complication comes to light when considering that since
International trade in tiger bones and their medicinal derivatives has been
banned in China (May 1993), use of sailong bone (common mole rat Mysospalax
baileyi) as a substitute. This confuses the whole picture because now we
have a situation where counterfeit medicinal products labelled as containing
tiger bone are on the market and at the same time, legal manufacturers have
changed the packaging of their medicines to remove all references to tiger
bone. So just as it is virtually impossible for the consumer to ascertain
whether medicines labelled as containing tiger bone really do contain the
ingredient, it is equally impossible to know if the latest medicines do not.
Tiger is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). As such, international
commercialisation of their parts and products is prohibited. Further, in
1994, President Clinton signed into law the Rhinoceros and Tiger
Conservation Act and in 2004, further authorisation for the act was made and
a separate bill The Rhino and Tiger Product Labelling Act came into force
which made it illegal to sell any medicine that lists rhino or tiger as an
ingredient on its label. Canada is set to follow suit. So although
legislation is in place, enforcement of the trade restrictions remains a
complicated matter, because, as mentioned earlier, when products claim to
contain rhino or tiger, but actually may not, it is near impossible for
customs agents to reliably analyze such products and determine conclusively
that they originate from these endangered species
§4. The wider picture: other threatened species in TCM.
Many other derivatives of animals are used in traditional medicines,
including musk, bear bile from Selenarctos thibetanus G. Cuvier or Ursus
arctos L., tiger bone, powdered rhinoceros horn (two types: Rhinocerus
unicornis L. & R. bicornis), leopard bone, otter liver (Lutra lutra L.) and
elephant tooth (from Elephas maximus L. or E. africanus Capensis. The
reality is, that if a product claims to contain tiger bone, it may contain
bone from leopards, lions, common house cats - or no bone at all.
The entire Rhinocerotidae family has been listed in Appendix I of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES) since 1977, thereby banning all international commercial trade
in rhinoceroses and their parts except in exceptional circumstances and
pre-Convention specimens. Asiatic black bears, giant pandas, spectacled
bears, and sloth bears are listed on CITES Appendix I (endangered) and are
therefore prohibited from trade. All brown bears in China, Mongolia, and the
Himalayan subspecies are listed on CITES Appendix I. European brown bears
(the last female brown bear in the Pyrenees was shot by a hunter in 2004
(Gentleman 2004), American black bears, Alaskan brown bears, and polar bears
are listed on CITES Appendix II (limited trade). Trade in six bear species
is completely banned under international law and most species worldwide have
dramatically declined. Some musk deer populations are listed on Appendix I
of CITES and, therefore, are banned from international trade, due to
over-exploitation of the male scent gland for use in medicines and perfumes.
Beijing Traditional Chinese Medicine University is currently undertaking a
three-year study of bear bile alternatives, and a literature review of
alternative TM ingredients.
In 2001, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the UK's
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) provided Middlesex
University with a three-year, joint grant to investigate herbal alternatives
to bear bile, rhinoceros horn and tiger bone. Researchers are currently
identifying the active constituents in bear bile, rhino horn and tiger bone
and will go on to find herbal substitutes. The International Fund for Animal
Welfare believes that progress thus far has been encouraging
The active ingredient in bear bile - ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) - has been
successfully synthesized in the USA, Japan, China and South Korea. The
synthesized product is available in Japan under the name Urso, and in the
USA as Actigall. Unfortunately, the gall bladders of pigs and fish
(especially carp) are also recognized by the Chinese Association of Medicine
and Philosophy as substitutes for bear gall bladder. In addition, there are
at least 54 herbal alternatives to bear bile, according to the Chinese
Association of Medicine and Philosophy. These include: Chinese Ivy stem,
Xinjiand Peony root, Indian Mock Strawberry, Madagascar Periwinkle, Barbed
Skullcap, Rhubarb, Chinese Lizardtail, Dandelion, Japanese Thistle,
Chrysanthemum, Common Sage, Purple Flower, Holly Leaf and Hibiscus Leaf.
The conspicuous consumption of threatened species in TCM has not gone
un-noticed by the press. A news report (AP Worldstream 23.4.2004) identified
eyeball extract from the slow loris, civet from the anal gland of the civet
cat, rhinoceros horn, & Dendrobium orchids as species widely used in TCM. To
these ingredients we can add ambergris, musk from musk deer and agarwood
(Burfield 2003). CITES (2003) additionally lists wild-grown ginseng as
extinct in China, and the use of licorice root in TCM is potentially putting
the species under threat. In a chiiling article, Gray (2004) further
identifies freshwater turtles, seahorses and pangolins (scaly anteater) as
being the most recently sought-after species after the decline in
availability of tiger-bone, rhinoceros horn and bear gall-bladder.
Importation of CITES listed ingredients without suitable licenses would be
in contravention of CITES, and prosecutions of practitioners for importing
TCM's containing threatened species is not unknown - one incident involving
the importation into Canada without issuing licences from Hong Kong, of
products containing derivatives of musk deer and orchids in contravention of
Appendix II of CITES is referenced below (CCN 2003).
N.B. In a recent CITES Amendment (COP 13 meeting Oct 2004) artificially
propagated specimens of Orchidaceae hybrids from Dendrobium and other genera
are not subject to Convention provisions under certain circumstances, see
Light M.H.S's summary http://www.canadianorchidcongress.ca/cochot4.htm.
Musk in TCM
The powdered dried granules from sexual secretion of the male Moschus
moschiferus L. are used in TCM to open orifices, invigorate blood
circulation , induce parturition and promote the flow of meridians (Hsu
1996). Applications include employment for stroke, epilepsy, internal and
external trauma etc. Chinese pharmacological studies summarised by Hsu
indicate CNS stimulating effects, a hypotensive effect, male hormone-like
effects, uterus stimulating effects, and anti-inflammatory effect and an
anti-bacterial effect. Zhou et al. (2004) have reviewed the distribution,
status and conservation of five species of musk deer in China through 17
provinces. They estimate the total numbers at between 220,000 to 320,000 and
argue for improved measures against poaching, smuggling of musk products and
measures against habitat degradation (deforestation) to those already in
place. The success of in situ protection (protection within a designated
area) in Tangjiahe National Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province is cited. Ex
situ protection (captive breeding) is recommended in areas where musk deer
are becoming extinct or endangered. Domestic demand for TCM products is
recommended to be regulated and controlled. In 1999 the EU banned the import
of musk, and whilst any respectable aroma trade company in the West would
not now use animal ingredients (Burfield 2004), according to Xu et al.
(1987) the Second Australian Symposium on Traditional Medicine and Wildlife
Conservation Proceedings imparted a different message for its practitioners.
In regard to China's heavy requirements for TCM ingredients, "the removal of
medicinal parts from live animals or plants without destroying them" is
headlined, and quoting Xu et al. (1987) the passage runs:
"Musk (Moschus), She Xiang is the dried secretion from the musk sac of the
adult male deer. It has been used to restore consciousness, to activate
blood circulation, stimulate menstrual discharge, reduce swelling and reduce
pain. Because the musk deer in a rare and endangered animal, Chinese
scientists have already employed modern science and technology to explore
the medicinal properties of deer musk. They use artificially bred musk
deer, and successfully extract the musk from the live deer. Multiple
harvesting not only stimulates musk production, but also increases the musk
deer reproductive ability."
This above proposal is simply not acceptable to the sensibilities of many
civilised people, and just how far this sick situation can be taken is
illustrated by Gray (2004), who reports that captive brown bears are milked
for their bile by the insertion of steel catheters through their gall
Homes (1999) reflects more on the reality of the situation, noting that to
extract the musk invariably means killing the wild deer first. In my 30
years experience in global sourcing of raw materials for perfumery (TB), any
musk samples I have been unfortunate enough to encounter seen have always
been as entire severed glands (musk pods), and there is no reason I can see
to expect the situation to change substantially. Illegal poaching in Tibet
has resulted in a sharp drop in the number of musk deer (Anon 2), the
country having four of the five varieties of musk deer known in China. The
trade in musk pods in Russia and Mongolia is dangerously threatening musk
deer populations, with illegal slaughter of deer for musk running at five
times the level legally permitted in hunting (Pickrell 2004).
Illegally obtained ingredients won't work in TCM.
Using products from animal parts esp. endangered species not only hastens
their decline in the wild but according to religious/ philosophical beliefs
it is also bad for the soul. Traditional Chinese medicine is based upon a
principle that emphasises the importance of balance in nature including
harmony between mankind and his environment (not to mention the sanctity of
life). Indeed, an important concept in TCM is the understanding that the
body reflects universal order tian ren he yi or microcosm & macrocosm.
Holistic practitioners today in the west even follow this principle. From a
holistic medical perspective, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that
use of these ingredients is so damaging to nature that they cannot actually
1. "Future generations would be truly saddened that this century had so
little foresight, so little compassion, such lack of generosity of spirit
for the future that it would eliminate one of the most dramatic and
beautiful animals that this world has ever seen": GEORGE B. SCHALLER,
American Zoologist, Conservationist and Author.
2. "The Tiger is a large hearted gentleman with boundless courage and when
he is exterminated as exterminated he will be, unless public opinion rallies
to his support, India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of its
fauna" : JIM CORBETT 1944 legendary hunter-turned-conservationist who lived
in India and gave his name to the Indo-Chinese tiger subspecies and to the
renowned Corbett National Park - warned the British viceroy to India in 1946
that about 3,000 to 4,000 tigers were left and that even these would pass
§ 5. Human / Animal conflict (and how it is affecting the tiger)
There is a long history of human / animal conflicts. Many examples are
documented of local community aggression towards animals where human /
animal territories move closer together. Human populations have a habit of
growing as animal habitats shrink. Livelihoods are threatened, cattle are
often attacked. Competition for land and food becomes a driving force and
although many attempts have and are being made around the world to move from
a situation of conflict towards one of co-existence, as local peoples
struggle to survive, these conflicts still pose a major threat to the
continued survival of many threatened and endangered species. They are one
of the main causes of species decline and it is widely recognised by
conservationists and governments as a top priority in species protection.
It is unfortunate that the same Indian govt. dept. that speedily set up the
Tiger Task Force namely, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, recently
in their wisdom ruled that
"all rights and concessions (traditional rights to collect minor forest
product) cannot be enjoyed in protected areas." Because three and a half to
four million people (TTF estimate) live in the aforementioned protected
areas, many livelihoods have been axed in one fell swoop.
One attendee of the May 2005 Tiger Task Force two-day meeting commented that
"the exclusion of the communities in management of forest and wildlife
resources affects the gathering of intelligence and information, which is
critical to preventing poaching" The name of the notorious sandalwood
smuggler Veerappan was mentioned as an example of a smuggler who was able
to gain the co-operation of local people who had been denied access to
forest produce. This May 2005 meeting did however recognise that this issue
has to be resolved in order for the situation to move forward. August 2005
saw a Tiger Task Force report which talked about "relocating" the
populations of the 250 villages currently located inside designated tiger
areas. (Cropwatch wonders why Tiger reserves were placed in human-inhabited
areas in the first place!). Environmentalist Sunita Narain, who heads the
Tiger Task Force said in the report "What is suggested is a time-bound
programme to identify those villages which must be relocated because they
are located in crucial tiger habitats, "In this case, the country has no
choice but to make peace with the communities that share the tiger's home,"
Narain said, calling for their involvement in forest reserve tourism. "If
not, we will lose the war of conservation, tiger by tiger." Interestingly,
and perhaps more sensibly, a fellow tiger Task force member, tiger expert
Valmiki Thapar, disagrees. He argues in a dissenting report that coexistence
will doom the tiger. (New Scientist)
There are several projects running elsewhere in areas of human / tiger
conflict One of these is in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Lao (the
poorest and least developed country in East Asia who signed up to CITES in
2004) where there is a lucrative market for tiger bone and large mammals.
LAO pdr borders China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thialand and Vietnam - all major
consumers and traders in CITES- protected species. Whereas China (the
richest and most developed country in Asia) has been a participating member
of CITES for 23 years, after one and a half years membership, LAO pdr is
making efforts to set aside extra land for use by local villagers for
subsistence, training patrols, regular monitoring, conservation education
programmes and projects aimed at attracting tourism to aid village income.
At the time of writing, LAO pdr is also beginning to forge closer
co-operative links with Vietnam on this issue. It is too early to report
any success stories here but Lao's willingness to put resources into this
issue and to join CITES shows responsibility and commitment to the issue.
§ 6. New crises: consumption of raw materials (sandalwood against bird flu).
Returning specifically to sandalwood, the recommendation by Beijing Evening
News (Lev 2003) that the prevention of infection by SARS is not helped by
boiling cauldrons of vinegar or by drinking bowls of ban lan gen soup, but
rather by burning sandalwood or Tibetan incense, thus potentially adding to
China's enormous consumption of sandalwood products. In conventional Chinese
medicine sandalwood is said to strengthen hearts and male sexuality, and to
cure chest pains, dizziness, nausea and asthma (Sanaboon 2004). At present
time of writing (April 2005) there is a shortage of Ginger oil for the same
reason - a panic about bird 'flu has produced enormous market demand for
this ingredient. It is of note perhaps that SARS is supposed by some to have
originated from civet cats in China's wildlife markets (Gray 2004).
Sandalwood oil East Indian (from Santalum album) has become an even more
scarce item lately (April 2005) due to the actions of the Indian authorities
action in intending to close down nineteen illegal sandalwood oil stills in
Kerala - which only just seem to be substantially affecting supply now
after being reported in early 2004 (Keralanext 2004). The electronic tagging
of trees (via satellite trackable microchips) has also been employed to stem
in India's Kerala state forests from rapid sandalwood depletion as reported
in Cropwatch 7. But in Australia's Queensland state a $700,000 initiative
has been handed to James Cook University's Agroforestry and Novel Crops Unit
in Cairns to investigate variations in sandalwood oils from Santalum spp.
Queensland and Vanuatu - here 'The Boys from the Bush' scheme employs
aboriginal youngsters to collect wild sandalwood from around Cape York
(Jones 2004). The object of the exercise is to produce incense grade
sandalwood oil via aboriginal labour around Cape York for export to feed
China's ferocious appetite for sandalwood products.
Avarian influenza: Humans acquire the H5N1 virus through direct exposure
with sick fowl either through handling, or exposure waste products of the
infected fowl see: http://www.hain.org/Ha/haonline2004/feb2004.htm. The real
danger is regarded as being.the possibility of the virus mutating into a
form that passes easily between people. An article on Traditional Chinese
cures against influenza can be found at
http://www.itmonline.org/arts/flu.htm and one mixture (Ilex 15: Seven
Forests) contains the ingredient ginger (Zingiber officinale). It seems to
be the case that ginger oil has gone short recently (2005) on the essential
oil stock-market because of the increased internal demand in China and Japan
for Ginger qualities for traditional medicines against influenza.
Demand for traditionally-used animal by-products, especially tiger bone is
increasing and in response to this, we have those within the TCM professions
who have an interest in ensuring the long-term availability of highly
revered natural products in order to keep TCM practice as close as possible
to It's original intent, which is to serve human beings by utilising various
plant and animal parts. An example of this attitude is seen in the
Australian Governments Dept. of Environment & Heritage, Proceedings of the
Second Australian Symposium on Traditional Medicine and Wildlife
Conservation, March 1999: In it's "Proposals" the Symposium complains about
"...the problem of the increasing number of our medicinal resources being
included in the 'endangered lists' thus leading to price escalations and
difficulty in procuring them threatens the viability of our practice."
The authors explain that "TCM is a system of medical practice embedded in
the ethic which understands health-as-balance" They clearly do not
comprehend that to achieve a balanced state of health , all levels of body,
mind, and spirit need to be recognised. In order to create a harmonious
state within the individual, un-harmonious practices and medicines derived
thereof, will not create the harmonious energy needed by the affected
A more responsible view is taken by others in the profession, most notably
by the The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine who actively
promote use of alternatives to tiger bone.
Analysis derived from the data collected by the WWF/TRAFFIC survey
previously mentioned shows differing attitudes to use of TCM medicines and
Endangered Species in Chinese communities in Hong Kong and the US. "Since
1997, there has been a substantial increase in the belief that human threats
to endangered species must be stopped, including the use of these animals in
Chinese medicine. More than half of the survey respondents (57%) now hold
this view, compared to 39% in 1997. Furthermore, respondents are more
willing to forgo TCM containing endangered species ingredients than they
were in the past. Only 21% say they would continue to use a Chinese medicine
if they found out it contained endangered species ingredients, compared to
32% in 1997".(TCMWildlife)
WWF and TRAFFIC have played a major role both in publicising the issue,
gathering data, lobbying for greater protection for species (which came for
many species at the last meeting of the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), held in Bangkok,
Thailand in October 2004,) and in working closely with countries and
governments. (WWF has given immense support to LAO pdr to enable them to
Following reports of missing tigers, In April 2005, CITES requested a
meeting with the Indian Prime Minister at his earliest possible convenience
"in order to accelerate cooperation between CITES and India and to engage
the international community more fully in addressing the tiger crisis". A
meeting was suggested by the secretariat which would involve CITES and
Customs and police officials from China, India and Nepal with a remit to
exchange information and intelligence and to help design strategies for
increasing cross-border cooperation and coordination of investigations. -
Cropwatch is awaiting a response from CITES regarding outcomes of any
meetings and progress to date.
Although work is ongoing, with CITES, WWF, TRAFFIC, EIA, Tiger Task Force
and other groups who are all "calling for measures" to monitor, patrol and
legislate. Many parties are "aware", "concerned" and "conscious" of the
problem. Cropwatch is concerned too - very concerned that the rate at which
progress is being made is not in line with the amount of time endangered big
cats and other species have left. Demand for tiger bone in particular is so
high still that it almost guarantees supply. CITES exists to provide
protection for wild animal and plant species in international trade. but in
order to protect a species, that species has to exist. It is claimed that
since CITES began in 1975, not a single species has become extinct. Lets
hope that CITES can move swiftly enough on the tigers behalf to maintain
this record. It has checked many species into the treaty now, we do not want
to see the tiger being checked out.
Cropwatch would like to call on consumers, would-be consumers, students,
practitioners and training establishments of TCM to make a public
declaration of intent to NOT knowingly buy, sell or use TCM products
containing endangered species animal parts. To this end, we are going to
maintain a notice board where supporters can sign their names to the
proposals. There will also be space made for feedback, comments on
attitudes, further information etc..
Li Yang M.Med (China) (2005) - Personal communication.
McGirk J. (2004) “Where do all the Thai tigers go? Wildlife Zoo accused of breeding animals in appalling conditions for Chinese aphrodisiac trade” Independent on Sunday 09.05.2004
Millwatch #37 (2002) – see www.lfu.org/Archives/Millwatch/Millwatch37.htm
Tiger Crisis Looms in India
New Scientist 13.07.05.
Pearce F. (2004) “China's GM trees get lost in bureaucracy” New Scientist 15.09.04.
TCMWildlife "Reducing demand for tiger medicinal products"