China Delays Lifting Ban on Tiger, Rhino Use in Medicine

By Nina Rygh, Asia Reporter

After outcry from environmental activist and conservation groups, China has postponed an October decision to life a ban on using the remains of tiger and rhino from captive individuals in science and traditional medicine.

The decision to lift the quarter century old ban was “postponed after study," according to a statement by State Council Executive Deputy Secretary-General Ding Xuedong.

Lifting the 25-year-old ban would have allowed certified doctors and hospitals to use rhino and tiger parts for "medical research or in healing." These animals would have come from captive facilities within China where they are bred for commercial purposes.

The massive backlash from global conservation groups against this policy reversal gained global media attention and caused tension between Chinese government officials and international conservation efforts.

Other components of the ban would still be in effect. Even if the ban is lifted, officials state that the import and export of rhino, tiger or their by-products, the sale, purchase or transport of these parts, and the use of these parts in medicine will remain illegal.

At least 30 percent of seized tiger products came from China's tiger farms between 2012 and 2015. Masquerading as tiger conservation parks, China's tiger farms have long been viewed as facilities to breed tigers and other threatened species for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Even as the Chinese population shifts towards modern forms of medicine, demand for these older methods continues to rise, further threatening the dwindling tiger populations in Asia as well as the rhino populations in Africa and Southern Asia.

Conservation groups hope that this ban will remain in place, offering a further safeguard to the long-term preservation of these species.