Tag Archives: chinese medicine

Extreme Markets: the fascination for wild genitalia

Tomohon, in the highlands of North Sulawesi, Indonesia is …the “extreme market”. There is certainly something extreme about the serried carcasses, blackened by blow torches to burn off the fur, the faces charred in a rictus grin.   The pasar extrim speaks to Sulawesi’s striking biogeography. The Indonesian island straddles the boundary between Asiatic and Australian species—and boasts an extraordinary number of species found nowhere else. But the market also symbolises how Asia’s amazing biodiversity is under threat. Most of the species on sale in Tomohon have seen populations crash because of overhunting (habitat destruction has played a part too)…

An hour’s drive from Tomohon is Bitung, terminus for ferry traffic from the Moluccan archipelago and Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province. These regions are even richer in wildlife, especially birds. Trade in wild birds is supposedly circumscribed. Yet the ferries are crammed with them: Indonesian soldiers returning from a tour in Papua typically pack a few wild cockatoos or lories to sell. One in five urban households in Indonesia keeps birds. Bitung feeds Java’s huge bird markets. The port is also a shipment point on a bird-smuggling route to the Philippines and then to China, Taiwan, even Europe. Crooked officials enable the racket.

The trade in animal parts used for traditional medicine or to denote high status, especially in China and Vietnam, is an even bigger racket. Many believe ground rhino horn to be effective against fever, as well as to make you, well, horny. Javan and Sumatran rhinos were not long ago widespread across South-East Asia, but poaching has confined them to a few tiny pockets of the islands after which they are named. Numbers of the South Asian rhinoceros are healthier, yet poachers in Kaziranga national park in north-east India have killed 74 in the past three years alone.

Name your charismatic species and measure decline. Between 2010 and 2017 over 2,700 of the ivory helmets of the helmeted hornbill, a striking bird from South-East Asia, were seized, with Hong Kong a notorious transshipment hub. It is critically endangered. As for the tiger, in China and Vietnam its bones and penis feature in traditional medicine, while tiger fangs and claws are emblems of status and power. Fewer than 4,000 tigers survive in the wild. The pressure from poachers is severe, especially in India. The parts of over 1,700 tigers have been seized since 2000.

Asia’s wildlife mafias have gone global. Owing to Asian demand for horns, the number of rhinos poached in South Africa leapt from 13 in 2007 to 1,028 last year. The new frontline is South America. A jaguar’s four fangs, ten claws, pelt and genitalia sell for $20,000 in AsiaSchemes to farm animals, which some said would undercut incentives to poach, have proved equally harmful. Lion parts from South African farms are sold in Asia as a cheaper substitute for tiger, or passed off as tiger—either way, stimulating demand. The farming of tigers in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam provides cover for the trafficking of wild tiger parts. Meanwhile, wild animals retain their cachet—consumers of rhino horn believe the wild rhino grazes only on medicinal plants.

Excerpts from  Wasting Wildlife, Economist, Apr. 21, 2018, at 36

The Illegal Trade in Endangered Species and the Chinese Demand

Philippine authorities have seized large shipments of anteater and turtle parts in a sign that the illegal trade in the endangered animals is booming, officials said Wednesday (Jan. 4, 2012).  Fifty-eight pounds (26.5 kilograms) of Philippine pangolin, or anteater, about to be smuggled to Manila as goat meat was confiscated Wednesday at the Puerto Princesa city airport in southwestern Palawan province, said Alex Marcaida, an environment official.  On Monday, 209 pounds (95 kilograms) of pangolin scales and 200 pounds (90.5 kilograms) of scutes from endangered hawksbill and green turtles were seized at the same airport, he said. That shipment, which had a market value of nearly 1 million pesos ($23,000), was declared as dried fish.

Pangolin is a Chinese delicacy. Its scales are used in Chinese traditional medicine.  Turtle scutes — the plates that cover the shells — are used to decorate guitars and other products.  Marcaida said it’s possible traders are increasingly turning their attention to Palawan, home to many exotic wildlife, for pangolin meat because the animal’s population has been vanishing in other parts of Southeast Asia due to hunting and deforestation.   The International Union of Conservation of Nature said rising demand for pangolins, mostly from mainland China, and lax laws are wiping out the unique toothless anteaters from their forest habitat in Southeast Asia.  The animals are protected by laws in many Asian nations, and an international ban on their trade has been in effect since 2002. But these measures have had little impact on the illicit trade, the IUCN said.

The IUCN lists the Philippine pangolin, which is endemic to Palawan, as close to becoming a threatened species.  But Marcaida, who is from the government’s Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the Philippines considers the mammal a threatened species because of the continuing illegal trade.  He said the strict monitoring of trading in live pangolin may have prompted traders to try to smuggle them as meat and scales. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pangolin scales sells for 5,000 pesos ($114).  The same traders may be behind the two shipments, Marcaida said, adding that no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.  The shipper of Wednesday’s haul left the cargo with an airport porter, while Monday’s shipment, which was bound for central Cebu city, went through a courier company, he said.

By TERESA CEROJANO, Philippines seizes meat of endangered anteaters,Associated Press,Jan. 4, 2012