Following an international outcry, the government of China announced yesterday (12th November 2018) that “after study” it will postpone issuing regulations to implement the proposed controlled commercial trade in tiger bone and rhino horn from farmed animals for medical, scientific and cultural purposes. Instead, China will continue to enforce existing bans on trade in rhinos, tigers and their derivatives. China also reiterated its commitment to working with the international community to protect wildlife and crack down on wildlife trafficking.

Responding to this latest announcement, Dr Rebecca Drury, Senior Technical Specialist for Wildlife Trade at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), said: “FFI welcomes the announcement by China that it will suspend the proposed relaxation of its ban on domestic trade in rhino horn and tiger bone, reinforcing its commitment to global efforts to counter wildlife trafficking. Legal trade can provide a cover for illegal sales, making it much more difficult to control illegal trade and undermining enforcement efforts. It can also serve to fuel consumer demand for tiger and rhino horn products.”

Trade in rhino horn and tiger products has been banned in China since 1993, and the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies removed tiger and rhino products from the approved list of traditional medicines in 2010. In recent years, the Chinese government has taken positive action to combat wildlife trafficking. China is also a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and, in 2007, the Conference of the Parties took the legally binding decision that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives and that tiger farms should be phased out.

FFI welcomes these positive signs that China – which will host the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity – remains committed to combating wildlife trafficking and upholding its ban on trade in tiger bone and rhino horn, which has been so crucially important in helping to protect tigers and rhinos in the wild. We look forward to hearing that the proposal to lift this ban has been shelved permanently.