Tuesday, April 16, 2013

1996-01-08 "Tiger, tiger, burning bright"

January 8, 1996, Monday
Victoria Times Colonist
by Malcolm Curtis

Tiger, tiger, put it right . . .
Weak laws ‘to blame’ for elixirs and pills which contains parts of endangered species

There are only about 4,000 wild tigers left in the world, but traditional Chinese medicines containing tissue and bones of tigers are openly sold in Victoria’s Chinatown.

Other elixirs and pills, using parts of endangered species, continue to be sold across the country because of weak provincial and federal laws, says a Chinese-Canadian environmentalist committed to stamp out the practice.

Anthony Marr, born in China, raised in Hong Kong, but a BC resident for 30 years, is lobbying to change traditional Chinese medicine in this country, so that it meets environmentally sound principles.

“If major endangered species of the world - bear, elephant, tiger and rhino, among others - become extinct as a result of Chinese demand for their body parts, I would consider that a very serious crime against nature,” Marr said in an interview.

“I would like to wipe out that demand to save the species, and save the Chinese reputation while I’m at it.”

Marr, 52, is a campaigner for the Vancouver-based, 25,000-members-strong Western Canada Wilderness Committee to halt the sale of exotic animal parts. That includes bear gall bladders taken from poached Grizzly and Black bears in BC and illicitly sold to customers in Asia.

Marr produced half a dozen packages from an attaché case of examples of medicines sold by Chinatown apothecaries in Vancouver made from tiger bones and bear galls.

A survey of 20 apothecaries in Vancouver by the Washington-DC-based Investigative Network showed 13 sold such medicines. At Victoria’s Fung Hing Hong Co. Chinese Herbs, 614 Fisgard Street, $6.75 packages of tiger bone plaster from China were openly displayed on sale Thursday.

With tigers disappearing at the rate of one a day in India and two a day worldwide, “it just blows your mind to see this sort of thing being allowed in Canada,” said Joe Foy of the WCWC.

“Some forms of Chinese healing believe that powerful animals should make powerful medicine, and that their organs can be used to cure their corresponding human body parts,” said Marr. Wild animal penises, for example, are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.

Through a quirk of law, it is illegal to import such animal parts into Canada, but it is okay to sell them once they’ve been smuggled into the country.

Born near Canton, Marr was raised in a Hong Kong family that used traditional Chinese medicines to cure his childhood ailments. “I still respects the traditional of herbal medicines, which was developed by trial and error,” said Marr, “but the use of animals parts, however, developed mostly along lines of superstition, is another matter.” . . .

A report published in November 1995 by Humane Society International says that global profits from the illegal global trade of endangered species were estimated by Interpol at $6 billion US annually.

The report says that in addition to the 40,000 bears legally killed in North America, 40,000 to 80,000 were poached. Demand for bear gall bladders and bear paws was the driving force in the illegal hunt, the report concludes. . . .

WCWC’s Joe Foy noted that North America is one of the last havens for bears since they have become extinct or seriously endangered in other continents. While Canadian bears are not yet endangered, the threat from the demand for animal parts is serious, he said. . . .

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