Following a huge international backlash, China has decided to postpone its highly controversial plan to allow the domestic trade of tiger bones and rhino horns.
China's State Council announced on Monday that the plan “has been postponed after study,” adding that it will continue to strictly ban the selling, purchasing, transporting, carrying, and mailing of rhinos, tigers, and their byproducts.
“Illegal acts will be dealt with severely,” Ding Xuedong, Executive Deputy Secretary-General of the State Council, said on Monday.
“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.”
Last month, China announced the reversal of a 25-year ban on the trade of tiger and rhino parts, much to the annoyance of pretty much everyone outside of China and the illegal wildlife trade. The law change would have meant that China could freely use tiger bones and rhino horns for "medical research,” traditional medicine, and what the Chinese government called "cultural exchanges."
The trade of tiger bone and rhino horn was banned in 1993, however, a black market has continued to satisfy the demand for rare animal body parts, believed by many to hold medicinal properties, despite there being zero scientific evidence to suggest so.
Tiger bone wine, for example, is a traditional Chinese medicine made by steeping tiger bones in rice wine. Eventually, after the bones are soaked for a number of weeks, Chinese herbs and spices are added, resulting in a light-brown liquor believed to boost sex drive, virility, and strength.
Both of these charismatic creatures are in deep, deep trouble. There are only around 3,000 tigers and 24,000 rhinoceroses left in the wild, although some species of rhino are hanging by a thread. For example, there are fewer than 50 Javan rhinos and 300 Sumatran rhinos in the wild today.
As such, China’s brazen decision to reverse the ban sparked outrage across the world. China is usually not one to bow down to international pressure, so it remains uncertain what will become of the ban reversal. Nevertheless, for now, this is very good news.
“WWF [the World Wildlife Fund] welcomes the news that China has postponed lifting its ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn and tiger bone, signaling a positive response to international reaction,” Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader, said in a statement.
“This move helps maintain the leadership role China has taken in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and reducing market demand.
“With wild tiger and rhino populations at such low levels and facing numerous threats, extra caution and careful consideration should be given when considering relaxing any ban on trade in tiger and rhino parts."