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September 8, 2010

Endangered Species

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Borneo Island, Malaysia – I don’t have much hope for the species of the world which are connected with Chinese medicine. In fact, we could probably wipe off those critically endangered except for ones in well-guarded wildlife preserves and those in zoos.


When I mean well-guarded, I mean troops employed and helicopters buzzing on a shoot to kill mission to stop the poaching. It hasn’t come to that but it should.


On land the tigers and rhinos are the ones most endangered but the porcupines, sea horses, turtles, tortoises and many others will not be far behind. Already the shark has been reduced to limited numbers for their fins used in soup.


The problem is that the Chinese now have more money and they can now afford their voodoo cures that have been around for 3000 years. These useless concoctions (and I throw acupuncture with those but at least it doesn’t involve animals) are now creating a demand that makes their acquisition extremely profitable especially when the products are harvested by poor people in countries in South East Asia, Indonesia in particular.


As more and more people rise into the middle and upper classes in China, the demand will only increase and when demand increases the prices go up. A person in Indonesia, who may earn, maybe $1 a day, can make a wind fall of $5,000 for one tiger. Then the tiger is cut up into smaller pieces, earning the middlemen much, much more.


Recently a report from Hurghada, Egypt, stated that six Yemeni fishing boats had on board over 20 tons of dead sharks. The fins are used in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese restaurants. Now, more and more Chinese can afford to purchase the slimy slop.


They actually believe it can cure cancer and has a lot of vitamin A, but research has shown it has no value. Might as well drink water. The sharks fin could also cause impotence because of the high concentrations of mercury in them.


Speaking of impotence, I have never understood why the Chinese think they have a problem with their sex lives. After all, there are billions of them. One of the most grotesque things I have ever seen was a dog penis complete with testicles floating in wine in a restaurant outside of Chengdu, China. One pays for a glass of the wretched brown liquid in hopes it will improve their sex life. Rhino and tiger parts are principally for sexual enhancement.


Pfizer, the owner of the patent on Viagra, could do much to help in the reduction in trade of endangered species. By lowering the price and selling it on the Chinese market as an alternative to rhino and tiger parts, they could effectively stop the trade. But since when has any pharmaceutical company done anything remotely socially responsible?


Sarawak, where I live, has made great strides in recent months to protect animals. Harsher penalties for dealing in illegal wild life have been enacted. A training class will begin this fall for more enforcement officers. Education programs have resulted in awareness that animals should be turned over to sanctuaries. Education programs for schools will begin this month. Sarawak also wants to become a premiere eco-tourist destination.


The future of endangered species, especially those connected with Chinese medicine remains bleak. I do not have much hope for many of them – except in areas where they are guarded with a strong military-like force.

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