Threatened species used in traditional chinese medicine

Prized ingredient
Straits Times 24 Mar 12;

Animal ingredients such as rhino horn and tiger bone have been used in traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) for centuries. Last month, a pharmaceutical firm's bid for listing on the Chinese stock exchange - to raise money to increase its stock of farmed bears - set off a public protest against the move. The Straits Times highlights some of the imperiled species used in TCM

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Cruel ingredient in TCM 'cooling drink'
Straits Times Forum 5 Apr 12;

IN ADDITION to the illegal animal products used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are many products from legally killed endangered animals that are widely sold in Singapore ('Prized ingredient'; March 24).

One such animal is the critically endangered saiga antelope. This animal is widely hunted for its horns, which are used to make the 'antelope drink' sold under the label 'cooling drink' by some TCM halls.

If demand for its horns does not subside, the saiga is expected to become extinct within the next decade.

The only sign that the drink is made from saiga horns may at times be its scientific name, cornu saigae tataricae, listed under the ingredients.

The horns grow only on male saigas, which are killed in order to retrieve the horns. Because saigas are hunted from the wild, demand for the antelope drink directly affects wild populations.

I have spoken to many people about the antelope drink, and realised that the general perception is that the horns may come from farmed antelopes, or wild antelopes that are in abundance. Almost everyone I spoke to was not aware that the drink is made from a critically endangered species, as it is so widely available in Singapore.

On a positive note, a cruelty-free alternative to the antelope drink is readily available. Most bottled 'cooling drinks' or 'antelope horn drinks' found in supermarkets such as FairPrice or Carrefour contain an alternative TCM ingredient called gypsum fibrosum. This mineral compound serves the same purpose, cooling the body of 'heatiness', but minus the killing.

When buying a TCM or food item, consumers can exercise care in checking its ingredients, and also by taking note of its price.

When a TCM item is priced at a premium rate, it is usually because it is made of 'rare' ingredients, as the shop owners describe it.

Jennifer Lee (Ms)
Project: Wild