China allows use of tiger and rhino products, infuriating wildlife activists
Hong Kong (CNN)The Chinese government has legalized the use of endangered tiger and rhino products for "medical" purposes, a move wildlife activists say will be a setback to efforts to protect the increasingly endangered animals.
The directive reverses a 1993 ban put in place by Beijing on the international trade in tiger bones and rhino horns, both valued for their purported healing powers in Chinese traditional medicine.
"Powdered forms of rhino horn and bones from dead tigers can only be used in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine," the statement said.
Siberian tigers are seen lounging waiting to be fed outside a tourist bus at the Heilongjiang Siberian Tiger Park on August 16, 2017 in northern China.
"It is deeply concerning that China has reversed its 25 year old tiger bone and rhino horn ban, allowing a trade that will have devastating consequences globally", said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.
The decision by the Chinese government comes less than a year after it officially bannedthe trade of ivory, a move which conservationists hoped would help save increasingly endangered elephants.
In its statement the State Council said any illegal trade of rhino and tiger products would be subject to "severe crackdowns" and illegal products would be confiscated.
But Kinnaird said the new law could lead to illegal products being sold under the cover of legality, as well as increased demand from consumers.
"With wild tiger and rhino populations at such low levels and facing numerous threats, legalized trade in their parts is simply too great a gamble for China to take," she said.