Traditional medicine a threat to tigers, rare plants: study

July 2nd, 2008 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 2 (IANS) Trafficking in wildlife and unsustainable harvesting, prompted by the demand for traditional medicines, is depleting Southeast Asia’s rich and varied biodiversity, according to a new study. Field studies between 2005 and 2007, carried out by TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, found that Cambodians and Vietnamese rely excessively on traditional medicine.

Relaxation of international trade barriers, the impact of free-market economies and complex national policies have led to an increase in the demand and supply for flora and fauna used in traditional medicine.

“The supply of many wild animals and plants for medicine in Cambodia and Vietnam is becoming scarce due to over-exploitation,” said Crawford Allan of TRAFFIC.

“Some of the trade is illegal and threatening endangered species. In Vietnam, we estimate between five to 10 tiger skeletons are sold annually for use in traditional medicine.

“With each skeleton fetching approximately $20,000, there is a strong incentive to poach and trade tigers that we must address from the grassroots up.”

The study also looked at the use and trade of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Cambodia and its possible impacts.

Over 800 types of plants - approximately 35 percent of the country’s native species - are used in such a system. Eight of those plants species are considered high priority for national conservation.

In Vietnam, the study found, more than 3,900 species of flora and 400 species of fauna were used in traditional remedies.

Seventy-one of the animals traded and used for medicinal purposes in Vietnam are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of globally threatened species, the study said.

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