BEIJING (Reuters) - China tiger breeders called for the lifting of a ban on selling tiger parts on Thursday, saying the trade in tiger medicines used to treat rheumatism and loss of sexual appetite would help preserve the endangered species.
China banned the sale of tiger bones and hides in 1993, which virtually wiped out the market for traditional medicines made from tigers in what was once the world’s largest consumer of such goods.
Wang Ligang, general manager of the Heilongjiang Siberian Tiger Park, and Zhou Weisen, director of the Guilin Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Garden, said the ban had not stopped the decline in tiger numbers and that patients were suffering from less choices in medical treatments.
“If legal channels exist and patients can legally get their wanted materials of tiger bone in their medicine, the motivations to purchase tiger bones from illegal sources can be greatly minimized,” Wang said.
“We hope that either the government allows us to use our official practices in the production of medicines under strict government supervision or the government provides us with funding,” Wang told a news conference.
“We hope that the relevant tiger preservation organizations can provide help,” Wang said.
Tiger bones are used to treat everything from skin disease and convulsions to laziness, malaria and rheumatism. Tiger penis is believed by many to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
The breeders said their operations had made heavy losses since the ban.
Zhou denied that the onsite restaurant at Guilin Xiongsen sold tiger meat to customers, after a reporter said staff had presented him with a meat dish which they said was tiger.
“This could not have happened ... It’s possibly an employee quality issue,” Zhou said.
Wildlife groups fear Chinese officials will succumb to pressure from businessmen seeking to revive the trade in tiger parts, which they say would harm efforts to save the endangered wild cat.
Environmentalists believe there are only 5,000 to 7,000 tigers remaining in the wild, with the largest number in India.