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For more than 1,000 years the use of tiger parts has been included in the traditional Chinese medicine regimen. Because of the tiger's strength and mythical power, the Chinese culture believes that the tiger has medicinal qualities, which helps treat chronic ailments, cure disease and replenish the body's essential energy.

Tigers - an Endangered Species

Tiger claws- used as a sedative for insomnia; Alternatives - Acupuncture is often used very effectively in the treatment of insomnia caused by depression and related emotional problems. Herbs regularly used in treatment include: coptis root, fleece-flower stem, poria, and wild jujube seed.

Teeth - used to treat fever; Alternative - Herbs that can be effectively used include: anemarrhena rhizome and bamboo leaves.

Fat - used to treat leprosy and rheumatism; Alternative - Herbs that are effective in treatment include: Corktree bark, achyranthus root and coix lachryma joba.

Nose Leather - used to treat superficial wounds such as bites; Alternative - Herbs that can be effectively used in treatment include: astragalus root, dipsacus root or teasel root.

Tiger Bone - used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, general weakness, headaches, stiffness or paralysis primarily in lower back and legs and dysentery; Alternative - Herbs used to treat rheumatism and weakness include: Corktree bark, achyranthus root, ledebouriella root and coix lachryma joba. Treatments of headaches: spring onion tea, wild ginger or wild angelica, ginseng, poria, and Chinese date or schizonepeta. Acupuncture is also often effective in alleviating migraine headaches. For dysentery: anemone, white peony root, skullcap root and golden thread have been proven effective.

Eyeballs - used to treat epilepsy and malaria; Alternative - For epilepsy, herbs such as sweet flag root, Chinese senegar root, bamboo shavings or bamboo juice from young shoots can be used. For malaria, sweet wormwood and artemesia are effective.

Tail - used to treat skin diseases; Alternative - Acupuncture has be found effective in treating skin disorders.

Bile - used to treat convulsions/meningitis in children; Alternative - An herbal mixture named "White Tiger Decoction," made of gypsum and rice.

Whiskers - used to treat toothache; Alternative - Herb treatments include: gypsum, acupuncture, ginseng or chrysanthemum flowers.

Brain - used to treat laziness and pimples; Alternative - For pimple treatment: cleanse skin with a slice of fresh watermelon. Drink herbal tea made of honeysuckle, chrysanthemum of dandelion. For more severe cases use skullcap, rhubarb, gypsum and rehmannia.

Penis - used in love potions, aphrodisiac; This is a myth. The tiger is seen as a powerful entity in ancient tradition and culture, but there is no pharmacological evidence to suggest any tiger part is an aphrodisiac.

Dung or feces - used to treat boils, hemorrhoids and alcoholism; Alternative - For boils: treat as a skin disorder. For hemorrhoids: angelica, rhubarb, dandelion, magnolia bark and kapok flower are effective. For alcoholism: green tea, kudzu vine or watermelon can be used to detoxify the blood.


Endangered tiger parts such as bones, eyes, whiskers and teeth are used to treat ailments and disease ranging from insomnia and malaria, to meningitis and bad skin. Chinese texts state that the active ingredients in tiger bone; calcium and protein, which help promote healing, have anti-inflammatory properties.

Western medical experts tend to discount all claims of any curative power in tiger bone, as they do the rhinoceros horn, another popular Chinese medicine. And, it is well known that aspirin contains similar properties and produces the many of the same results as tiger prescriptions in patients.

Despite this, in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and in Chinatowns across Europe and North America, Chinese medicine stores do a steady trade in tiger wines, powder, tiger balms and tiger pills. Many Asian communities believe that tiger bone, in powdered form or prepared as, "tiger wine," soothes rheumatic pain and cures ulcers, malaria and burns.

These derivatives make international trade and consumption possible in the wake of the, Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty because they are not easily recognizable as tiger parts.

In recent years there has also been a resurgence of interest in traditional values and cures derived from nature in Chinese culture. Thus, the use of endangered tiger parts for medicinal properties is seen as a status symbol, a way to retain customs amid rapid change and as an alternative to the shortcomings of western medicine.

The Chinese culture believes that nearly all parts of the tiger can be used to derive some medicinal cure for any number of ailments. Here are some examples of how tiger parts and their derivatives are used in traditional Chinese medicine and causing the tiger to be a critically endangered species:

Fortunately, there are viable natural alternatives for those seeking traditional Chinese medicines to treat ailments and disease without using tiger derivatives.

The single greatest threat of extinction that looms over most Asian wildlife especially the endangered tiger, and pushes them to become endangered species, are the massive demands for traditional medicine.

Tigers - An Endangered Species

The annual consumption of traditional remedies made of tiger bone, bear gall bladder, rhinoceros horn, dried geckoes and a plethora of other animal parts is of phenomenal proportions. It is believed that today at least 60 per cent of China's billion-plus inhabitants use medicines of this type.

The booming economies and personal incomes of Southeast Asia have caused demand and prices to soar, lifting the international trade in wildlife products to an estimated $6 billion-a-year business.

Why is there this demand?

The use of tiger parts in Chinese medicine is nothing new, but it has only been in recent years that the increase in the standard of living in southeast Asia has made these remedies available to most people.

It is no wonder then that this newly affluent population has had a great effect on wildlife numbers and the demand for tiger parts. In many places in China, tiger parts are a delicacy that is served at special private banquets.

The use of endangered tiger products and their medicines is seen as a symbol of high status and wealth. Some remedies list tiger parts as an ingredient, but the real animal parts are so expensive that often the medicines may have only trace elements; but even this is enough to promote the continued slaughter of the tiger.

In addition, in recent years there has been a resurgence in traditional practices fundamental to the history of Chinese society. This has been fueled by cultural pride, and a growing sentiment that western medicine contains some shortcomings in treating illness.

Furthermore, new communities around the globe including non-Asian communities, are supplementing traditional Chinese medicine treatments into their western style of medicine, igniting the demand for tiger parts beyond what can be supplied.

Who is Using Tiger Parts? Countries and Statistics

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) believes that at least one tiger is killed daily for its use in traditional Chinese medicine.

An increased demand for endangered tiger parts exists throughout the world. China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Great Britain are involved in the tiger trade. One of the biggest markets for endangered tiger parts is Japan where legislation bans trade in endangered species, but does not cover products not readily recognizable, such as wine, pills and powders.

Hong Kong is the main importer of Chinese tiger products, accounting for nearly half of its annual business.

Although they are scarce, trade records indicate the import and export of tiger parts is substantial. The Zoological Society of London believes at least 1,900 kg of tiger bone were exported to Japan from Taiwan in 1990, an equivalent to 400-500 tigers.

According to South Korean immigration statistics, the country imported 3,994 kilograms (8787 pounds) of tiger bones from Indonesia between 1970 and 1993. The bones of one tiger weigh approximately 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

Due to increased demand, tiger bone prices have skyrocketed in South Korea, Taiwan and many other countries. The price is estimated to be between $140-$370 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) in U.S. dollars depending on the size of the bones.

In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup (to boost virility) goes for $320, and a pair of eyes (to fight epilepsy and malaria) for $170. Powdered tiger humerus bone (for treating ulcers rheumatism and typhoid) brings up to $1,450 lb. in Seoul.

Consuming tiger parts for medicinal purposes is not limited to Asia. A recent World Wildlife Fund investigation in England of Chinese chemists, craft shops and supermarkets in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool showed that half the shops sold products claiming to contain tiger bone.

The rising demand for tiger parts and rapid increase in price of tiger bone continues to be an irresistible incentive to poachers.

Who is Supplying the Demand?

Even though China has participated as a member in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, (CITES) since 1981, the laws are widely ignored and it remains the primary destination for Indian tiger parts. In 1995, in India alone, parts from 50 different tigers were discovered. Scientist suggest this number can be multiplied by a factor of five or six to reach the true figure.

Since China has almost eradicated its own tiger population it is now looking for a new supply of tigers from Bangladesh and Nepal. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that one-third of the breeding-age female tigers were lost between 1989 and 1991 in this area.

In Burma, hunting tigers is still legal. Burma, Lao PDR and Cambodia are not signatories to the CITES. Tigers in Vietnam and Malaysia continue to be hunted as well. One can buy tiger bones, skins or organs at Hanoi airport. Regardless of the extent to which the trade is policed, bits of tiger especially blood, eyeballs and genitals appear wherever there is demand.

Russia has also become a key supplier in the tiger trade due to political, economic and social instability. Poaching one tiger can bring in 10 years' income on the black market. It is estimated that in 1991, one-third of the Siberian or Amur tigers were killed to meet the demand for traditional Chinese medicines elsewhere.

Researchers and scientist believe poaching is alive and well despite many laws prohibiting the hunting and trade of endangered species.

How Much Does Tiger Poaching for Chinese Medicine Affect the Population?

A research project designed to model the effects of tiger poaching in Russia and India by John S. Kenney of Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has determined via computer modeling that even a small increase in poaching drastically increases the threat of the endangered tigers' extinction.

To make the model, the scientists used data collected for over 20 years on the survival rates and behavior of tigers in Nepal's Royal Chitwan National Park. In addition, they estimated that every normal-sized tiger group worldwide loses 5 to 10 of its 120 or so members to poaching each year. They then used the model to predict effects of different poaching patterns.

The model predicts, If poachers killed 10 of the animals in a tiger group every year for three years, the group would have less than a 20 percent chance of extinction in the 75 years after poaching stopped. Destroying 15 tigers a year for 3 years however, bumps the probability of extinction up to 50 percent. If poachers kill 15 tigers in a group each year for six years, or 10 animals for nine years, this will destroy the group.

If poaching continues at its current rate, researchers have predicted that many if not all the tiger clans will be wiped out in the near future.

Tiger populations can appear stable yet fail to withstand an unexpected disaster, such as bad weather, disease or reproductive problems. Add to this the devastating loses the populations suffer due to poaching and one can see that the challenges the endangered tiger faces will be extremely difficult to overcome in order to survive.

Have Efforts to Curb the Trade in Tiger Parts Worked?

Several Asian nations including China, Nepal, Japan, South Korea and Thailand have endorsed tough protections for tigers in the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The measures commit the countries to enact laws banning the trade of tiger derivatives, preserve tiger habitat, and form a regional network to halt tiger trade. But lack of government resolve and corruption at the highest levels have thwarted enforcement of other wildlife agreements that the nations have signed.

The popularity of tiger bones as a remedy for a multitude of ailments has produced a thriving black market, which is very difficult to monitor. Unlike a tiger skin, tiger bones can be crushed and made odorless and can be disguised as other types of bones. Tiger derivatives that are confiscated in raids by government officials are therefore believed to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The trade in tiger body parts is thought to have intensified as a result of a rapid increase in the demand for traditional Chinese medicine in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

Despite the acceptance of new trade policies in China, it still remains a principle player in the demise of the tiger and other endangered species. Other countries such as Taiwan have stepped up enforcement efforts since coming under pressure from the United States in 1993-1994.

In Taiwan, a recent trade control law has resulted in raids and seizures, prosecutions, extensive searches of Chinese medicine stores, and customs surveillance and coordination with other relevant authorities. Hong Kong has also intensified its enforcement activities, following its 1994 trade control laws.

But, such policing efforts in Asian countries touch only a small percentage of Chinese medicine stores, and often owners get word of a "raid" in time to hide or disperse any tiger parts they may have in stock.

Because the demand for tiger products continues to grow, and poaching is still prominent in India, Russia and southeast Asia additional measures need to implemented to curb both the supple and the demand for endangered tiger parts.


Most conservationists agree that strong protection of wildlife reserves has been the key to the endangered tiger's survival so far. It is vital, however, that wildlife conservation and habitat protection are not isolated solutions, but an important part of a multifaceted tiger survival strategy.

Tigers - an Endangered Species

Habitat loss is only one of several significant threats to the endangered tiger's survival. As long as the demand and market for tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine thrive, lives of tigers will be threatened. Economic and political circumstances within many of the tiger countries also require serious attention and international support.


The first ecological study of tigers in the wild, conducted in the mid-1960s, shocked those already suspicious about the tiger's endangered conditions with numbers that pushed the tiger to the brink of extinction.

In 1969, the General Assembly of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) proposed a resolution calling for international efforts to save the tiger. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) responded in 1972 with Operation Tiger, a global program to fund conservation efforts for the tiger in the Indian subcontinent, Indochina, and Indonesia.

During the 1970s, with the pressure and financial support of WWF's Operation Tiger campaign, many countries, including Indonesia, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand, established stronger wildlife protection laws (including laws banning the hunting of tigers) and created new protection areas.

India responded most rapidly with the formation of Tiger Task Force followed in 1973 by Project Tiger, which established India's first tiger reserves and financial support from the Indian government for habitat conservation and tiger protection. The governments of all tiger-range countries have established protected areas or national reserves. Commitments to adequately fund and protect these wildlife reserves vary greatly from country to country.

Since the 1980s, the success of the wildlife reserves has been increasingly and drastically undermined by conflicts between "protected" tigers and both individual poachers and the needs of surrounding communities. Responding to the renewed need for intensive tiger conservation efforts beyond the national level, in 1993 members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cat Specialist Group and other world tiger experts endorsed a declaration that led to the formation of the Global Tiger Forum of Range States.

The forum works to bring together representatives from the 14 remaining tiger range-countries to develop regional strategies to save the tiger. In 1994, representatives from all the tiger-range countries attended the forum, except Lao PDR, China, and North Korea. Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam met and developed their regional conservation strategy in 1995.

Today, international conservation groups are working hard to save the tiger from extinction, but the prospect of losing the last of the world's wild tigers within the next five years continues to loom. Combined with vital efforts to reduce the demand for tiger parts and strengthen protected-area laws, wildlife conservation and protection remains at the heart of the strategy to save the tiger in the wild.


Identify and monitor high priority tiger populations on which immediate conservation efforts should be focused. To survive in the wild, tigers need large areas of habitat with sufficient water to drink, animals to eat, and vegetative cover for hunting. Optimal tiger habitat includes a core area of at least 1,000 square kilometers that is free from most human activities.

Smaller areas are more limited in prey and are less likely to ensure the future stability of the tiger population. Scientists can locate key tiger populations by surveying habitats that meet the long-term ecological requirements of tigers. Specialists must also improve research methods of gathering vital information on tiger behavior and ecology for the development of long-term solutions.

Manage key tiger habitat for the protection of tigers. On-the-ground protection is essential to protect tigers from poachers seeking tiger parts for the lucrative market in traditional Chinese medicine. Enforcement officers, park guards and staff need to be hired, funded, organized, trained, equipped and legally empowered to protect the tiger from illegal hunters, day and night.

Develop community-based sustainable development and conservation programs. In most situations, the participation and collective action of individual rural households, whose livelihoods depend on use of the forests where tigers live, is essential to sustain an effective tiger conservation strategy. Local institutions, government departments, non-governmental organizations, conservation groups and banks can work with communities to develop local economic enterprises that depend on alternative resources.

"Eco-development" (ecologically-sensitive development) must be combined with educational conservation programs that inform, empower and inspire local communities to participate in the protection of the tiger. It is also important to educate consumers around the world that conservation efforts at home help reduce the demand for natural resources abroad.

Captive Breeding

Animal specialists at zoos all around the world are paying special attention to animals from endangered species. Working with conservation groups, tiger specialists are researching tiger nutrition, health, and reproduction and zoo facilities and management so that zoo tigers will breed future generations of healthy cubs.

Conservation Breeding Specialist Groups and zoos are cooperating internationally in captive-breeding programs such as GASP (Global Animal Survival Plan). Some captive-bred tigers have been released into the wild. Although these programs do not prevent habitat encroachment, captive breeding is important for maintaining a reservoir of genetic material on tigers.

Zoos provide insurance against such long-term threats as genetic deterioration that could affect the small populations of tigers left in fragmented reserves.

Participate in the solution. Your awareness and support is a vital part of the effort to save the wild tiger from extinction. Wildlife conservation groups and tiger specialists are working hard to preserve and protect tiger habitat, but their efforts will fail without adequate resources. It is very expensive to monitor reserves and enforce anti-poaching laws.

For example, it would cost approximately $15 million a year to adequately protect the tigers in India's reserves. It is imperative that we protect the tiger: it will not survive on its own.


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