April 10, 2002
by Associated Press
BANGKOK, Thailand A rampant trade in animal parts such as
rhino horns and bear paws for use in medicines and gourmet food
is the single greatest threat to wildlife in Asia, an international
conservation group warned Tuesday.
The extinction of species hunted for their parts or captured by
traffickers in exotic animals is "a real, not theoretical problem,"
said a statement by Wildlife Conservation Society, which is based
at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.
The statement summarized the findings of a four-day meeting held
last week in Thailand by the society's field staff from nine Asian
countries and experts from its New York headquarters.
Global trafficking in wildlife is worth an estimated US$8 billion
annually, a scale surpassed only by the illegal international trade
in drugs and weapons, said the society. It urged governments in
Asia to protect their wildlife by passing tougher laws, strengthening
their enforcement, and improving education.
Parts and meat from threatened species including rhino horns,
tiger skin, bear paws, and snake flesh are valued in many
Asian countries as gourmet foods or ingredients for traditional
Chinese medicines and aphrodisiacs.
The Wildlife Conservation Society said that hunting has put half
of Asia's turtles on the endangered species list and threatens the
existence of tigers and their prey across the continent.
"In these areas, if hunting persists, we will see a huge wave
of extinction in the next two decades," Joshua Ginsberg, director
of the society's Asia and Africa programs, was quoted as saying.
More than 1 million kilograms (2.2 million pounds) of snakes are
imported to Shanghai, China, annually and served as a luxury food,
the statement said. An international trade in exotic birds is the
best documented part of the illegal global trafficking of wildlife,
it said. More than 350,000 birds are sold every year in Indonesia's
The statement detailed the increasing impact of the wildlife trade
in Asia. Twelve large mammals and birds have been hunted to extinction
in Vietnam since the end of the Indochina war. Indonesia's Sumatran
and Java rhinos and Thailand's Siamese crocodiles are nearly extinct.
More than a ton of water snakes are harvested every day in Cambodia's
Tonle Sap lake to feed crocodiles in nearby farms.