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SOS Rhino : In the News :  MOJ steps up crackdown on illicit animal products

MOJ steps up crackdown on illicit animal products


Staff Writer

The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau is second to none when it comes to unearthing criminal evidence, particularly animal products such as ivory, tiger penis, rhino horns, and bear gall that were banned after the legislative Yuan passed the Wild Animal Conservation Law in 1991.

The Bureau has successfully built an international reputation that has helped to mitigate Taiwan's image as failing to conserve the natural world.

The MJIB's skills in detecting illicit animal products began by accident. After the legislative body passed the Wild Animal Conservation Law in 1991 prohibiting the import and selling of protected species' derivatives, the responsibility for enforcement was placed with the Executive Yuan Agriculture Council. However, the Council was unfamiliar with the identification of these products crippling its ability to effectively police imports.

When smugglers and sellers of restricted products were arrested, they often rebuked the investigators for their inability to prove the genuineness of the product in question, investigators were unable to distinguish between legal products such as some types of bone and contraband goods.

Council of Agriculture officials took a pile of ivory to the then director of the Department of Government Ethics under the Ministry of Justice Liu Chan-hua to ascertain its genuineness. This provided the impetus for the MJIB to improve its evidence identification skills.

With financial assistance from the Executive Yuan, several investigators were sent to the U.S. Ministry of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service center for training, when they returned they in turn trained colleagues on identification techniques.

Many prohibited animal products are used in Chinese medicine, the MJIB was especially keen to develop the skills to identify bear gall bladders, a common ingredient of Chinese medicine.

According to statistics, among the products sent to the Council of Agriculture for identification, 80 percent of products suspected to be made from ivory turned out to be genuine, rhino horn 20 percent, bear gall bladder 30 percent, and 6 percent of bones sold as tiger's were real.

Conservation groups around the world have urged the public to be cautious when using Chinese medicine, not only are products made from banned animal derivatives seriously endangering the survival of many species such as the tiger, also the methods used to extract the product, such as bear gall bladder bile are cruel and inhuman. Products often advertised as containing animal derivatives such as tiger penis are rarely what they claim to be.



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