The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) just released a worrying article. Apparently leopards (Panthera pardus) are also being killed in large numbers to support the Traditional Asian Medicine trade.
Big cats, especially tigers, have long been valued in Traditional Asian Medicine (TAM). The bones of such animals are believed to be able to cure practically everything, and to increase men’s sexual potency. While there is no scientific basis for these claims, belief in TAM has been strong enough to push tigers (Panthera tigris) to the brink of extinction.
As tigers have become harder to find – largely thanks to poaching for the TAM trade – other cat species are increasingly being used as substitutes. I have repeatedly written about the damaging effects the TAM trade is having on jaguars (Panthera onca) in Bolivia. According to the EIA’s article, leopards have also been added to this unfortunate list.
The authors claim that authorities have confiscated body parts from over 4,900 leopards since the year 2000. The true scope of the problem likely much greater. A complicating factor is that it is legal in China to sell tonics made from leopard bones that were ‘harvested’ before 2006 – as long as they are properly labeled. However, poachers are almost certainly funneling illegally-harvested leopard bones through China’s faulty labelling system.
Government corruption within China is not helping either. A Chinese doctor who questioned the benefits of leopard tonics was detained by the Inner Mongolia Police for three months for the crime of “damaging the reputation of a company.” The EIA wrote that this arrest sparked online protests within China.
The EIA concludes their article by calling for the complete and total ban of the trade in big cat parts in China. The quasi-legal labelling system is clearly not working, leaving a hard ban as the last option.