In a move that has shocked conservationists across the World, China announced in October that it was reversing the ban on rhino and tiger products. This ban has been in place since 1993, but after 25 years it will now be legal in China to use products from these animals for traditional medicine and scientific research.
China insists that this will not cause a rise in illegal trade in the products, as they must come from captive animals only and trade will be highly controlled by a quota system (setting maximum amounts) . However conservationists have expressed concern that any kind of change to the ban will make enforcement of the law more difficult, as it will be easy for people to confuse illegal and legal products. This confusion will also be exploited by those who can make money from selling the products, leading to more illegally sourced products from wild animals entering the market. This increase in the market (more chances to sell the products) will lead to more killing.
The illegal trade in wildlife is a big threat to many iconic species, including elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins and many more. The problem is a global one – the countries in which the animals live and are killed are supplying the products to countries where there is a demand. The illegal killing of wild animals this way is known as poaching, and it is a dangerous crime that has led to the deaths of rangers who try to protect the wildlife, as well as poachers. As there is a lot of money to be made from illegal wildlife trade, it is often also linked to groups involved in other kinds of serious crime.
The problem is difficult to solve and has many layers. Until recently China looked to be making good progress towards preventing the illegal trade in wildlife, implementing a complete ban on ivory at the start of 2018. This move to reverse the ban on rhino and tiger parts, is seen by conservationists as a step in the wrong direction.
To find out more about illegal wildlife trade and its impacts, head to the WWF website.