TRAFFIC’s yearly snapshot of wildlife trade in China was released on 10 November 2008 and it shows that in the past year, China has contributed to the illegal timber trade in Africa, increased its trade in herbal medicines and increased its consumption of wildlife.
“The State of Wildlife Trade in China examines the impact China’s consumption is having on biodiversity and what emerging trends there are in wildlife trade,” explained Dr. Xu Hongfa, Coordinator of TRAFFIC’s China Programme.
The report 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.
“Chinese companies buying African timber must ensure the benefits of the timber trade are equitably shared, right down to the African rural communities on whose land the trees are growing,” said Professor Xu Hongfa, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s China Programme.
The Chinese traditional medicine trade has grown at an annual rate of 10 percent since 2003. Most exports (USD687 million-worth) go to Asia, but Europe (USD162 million) and North America (USD144 million) are becoming increasingly important markets. 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.
“TRAFFIC, the Beijing Chinese Medicinal Institution and others recently contributed to the development of the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, which could be applied to help China’s important medicinal plant industry achieve sustainability,” said Professor Xu Hongfa.
Consumption of wild animals is also 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.
“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 Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International’s Species Programme. “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,” said Professor Xu Hongfa.
• 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.