Taking a message of Conservation to schools of Traditional Medicine
An apothecary in Hanoi is selling traditional medicine with concoctions and various remedies made from the parts of endangered animals and plants. Photo Credit: Flickr
Traditional medicine, as we have pointed out at this site at length, can be a total menace to endangered species. Much of Malaysia’s and the region’s illegal wildlife trade is driven by a quest for the body parts of rare and “exotic” animals so they can be used for medicinal purposes. Tigers are slaughtered for their bones and whiskers. Rhinos are hunted mercilessly for their horns. Pangolins are taken from the wild for their scales. Malayan sun bears are seized for their gall bladders.
Needless to say, none of these parts from these endangered animals possess any magical curative properties. Yet old beliefs die hard and practitioners of traditional medicine (TM) in places like China, Hong Kong and Vietnam continue to peddle quack remedies, thereby helping drive already decimated species further to the brink of extinction.
When the demand for such charlatanry stops, the slaughter of wild animals can stop too. TRAFFIC is seeking to help achieve just that. The leading anti-wildlife trafficking organization has just helped organize training sessions, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, for 50 practitioners of traditional medicine so as to instill in them “an attitude of zero tolerance” towards the consumption of threatened animals and plants in Vietnam, which remains a regional hub for the illegal wildlife trade.
“Following the training, these 50 ‘champions’ will engage more than 3,000 students, other lecturers and TM practitioners throughout Viet Nam to promote legal and sustainably sourced traditional medicine products,” TRAFFIC explains. “During the workshops, the illegality of rhino horn and certain other animal products in traditional medicine was discussed. Facilitators outlined the reasons why TM practitioners need to avoid prescribing and consuming these species, especially to ensure the TM sector and TM practitioners in Viet Nam maintain a respectable reputation.”
Such workshops are essential for convincing practitioners of traditional medicine to mend their ways by weaning themselves and their clients off the consumption of endangered animals like tigers and sun bears. Yet education must go hand in hand with rigorous law enforcement. We will need to roll back the sprawling networks of criminal syndicates that have their reach across the region, from Malaysia to Laos, as they carry on furnishing quacks in Vietnam and China with a steady supply of body parts from rare and exotic animals, often at exorbitant prices.
Once you cut off demand for such body parts at source while simultaneously meting out severe penalties to wildlife traffickers, the relentless poaching of animals in the wild of countries like Malaysia is bound to stop once and for all.