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Traditional Chinese medicine and the tiger

As a recent BBC set of programmes on tigers living at high altitudes in the Himalayas in Bhutan has reminded us, a principal reason for the poaching that is driving these wonderful animals to extinction is the high price that tiger body parts command in traditional Chinese medicine. Even if it were true that they have medicinal properties, that would not justify killing tigers, but it is, of course, complete rubbish. The same, incidentally, applies to rhino horn.

The BBC series expressed the hope that the remoteness of these Himalayan tigers would ensure their survival, especially as the government of Bhutan appears to be supportive. The Bhutanese are Buddhists, which makes them more sympathetic to other forms of life.

It has often occrred to me that one way of combating poaching of animals for medicinal purposes might be to flood the market with cheap fake tiger bones and rhino horn. On the principle that bad money drives out good, this might reduce the profitability of poaching to a point where it was no longer commercially viable.

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