The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized traditional Chinese medicine for the first time on May 25, sparking widespread outcries from conservationists.
The demand for wild animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a major driver of the illegal wildlife trade, encouraging the poaching of tigers, pangolins, rhinos, and more. This trade has decimated tiger (Panthera tigris) numbers, and now cats like jaguars (Panthera onca) are being hunted as well.
Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence that traditional Chinese medicines involving wild animal parts cure the vast array of symptoms they’re purported to treat.
Thus, as this article on Mongabay explains, conservationists were both concerned and flabbergasted by the WHO’s decision to include TCM diagnoses in its International Classification of Diseases. Experts like Panthera’s Dr. John Goodrich worry that this recognition will be interpreted as an endorsement of TCM by the WHO, helping to push threatened species towards extinction.
While the WHO did say that it doesn’t support the illegal wildlife trade, many conservationists claimed that its statement was weak. Given what’s at stake, the WHO needs to firmly condemn the use of wild animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine.