China Reverses Ban on Rhino Horns, Tiger Bones in Medicine

The Chinese government has reversed its 25-year ban on using rhinoceros horns and tiger bones for traditional medicine, a move that could lead to increased poaching and the growth of a black market, The New York Times reports. The country’s State Council said it would legalize the use of rhino horns and tiger bones for “medical research or in healing,” the newspaper reports, but only for “certified hospitals and doctors.” The State Council also said horns and bones could only be used from rhinos and tigers raised in captivity, excluding zoo animals. According to Chinese medicine, rhino horns are used to treat “fevers, gout and food poisoning” and tiger bones are used to “boost health, cure a range of ailments and increase virility for men.” The newspaper reports the remedies are “highly profitable” but have “no proven benefits to humans.” The legalization of the two materials could lead to an increased demand for the fewer than 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers who still live in the wild. Chinese officials did not explain their reversal of the 1993 ban, but experts told the Times the move was likely “related to the government’s efforts to encourage the growth of traditional Chinese medicine”—which is reportedly a more than $100 billion industry.