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Wildlife Consumption in China Rising

Washington DC, November 11, 2008 —China’s traditional medicine trade has grown at annual rate of 10 percent since 2003, with exports valued at 144 million dollars to North America alone says a new report from TRAFFIC that reviewed wildlife trade in China in 2007.

The State of Wildlife Trade in China reportexamines the impact China’s consumption is having on biodiversity and what emerging trends there are in wildlife trade,” explained Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, director of WWF’s Species Conservation Program.

Consumption of wild animals is increasing following a slump surrounding fears over SARS in 2003. A TRAFFIC survey in five southern Chinese cities found that 13 of 25 markets and 20 of 50 restaurants had wild animals for sale. A total of 56 species were found and of these, eight are protected under Chinese law and 17 are protected under CITES, which prohibits or strictly controls international trade. The majority of illegal wild animal trade was in freshwater turtles and snakes. In China, freshwater turtles and snakes are sold mostly for their meat and for medicinal purposes.

Over-harvesting and poor management of resources are looming threats and currently there are no standards to ensure the sustainable collection of wild medicinal plants. Chinese traditional medicine trade has grown rapidly with exports worth 687 million dollars in Asia. European trade accounts for 162 million dollars with North America being developed as an increasingly important market.

“The trends seen in this report that show increasing demand in wildlife products and diminishing supply should be a wake-up call for law enforcement, policy makers and consumers,” said Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN “We call upon Chinese authorities to enhance enforcement and public education efforts, to stop illegal trade and reduce consumption of threatened species from around the world.”

A re-examination of the illegal ivory trade in China found that the situation has improved since a year earlier, with surveys showing a substantial reduction in the number of outlets selling ivory illegally.

“The reduction in illegal ivory trade is very welcome, but we urge the authorities to remain vigilant, particularly to ensure there is no laundering of illegal ivory,” added Allan.

The report also notes the rapid increase in demand in China for commodities such as wood and points out that while Russia is currently the top supplier of wood to China, Africa increasingly accounts for a growing percentage, which is stimulating illegal timber trade in Africa.

More information

  • The full report: The State of Wildlife Trade in China in 2007 can be downloaded at http://www.traffic.org/general-reports/traffic_pub_gen26.pdf
  • The bilingual report, in English and Chinese, is the second in an annual series on emerging trends in China’s wildlife trade, and provides up-to-date reviews of work being carried out to prevent illegal and support sustainable trade in China.
  • Other issues examined in the report include the illegal trade in musk, the link between the sea cucumber trade to Taiwan with marine biodiversity in the Galapagos, and links between Russian salmon fisheries and Chinese Markets.