Growth of TCM in Africa Threatens Wildlife, EIA Says

Chinese Traditional Medicine
Chinese Traditional Medicine

Mass of TCM in Africa Threatens Wildlife, EIA Says

A new report says the Beijing-backed expansion of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in many African countries is fraught with fueling the illegal wildlife trade and threatens the future of some of the world’s most threatened species.

The growth of the traditional Chinese medicine market, coupled with the perception of Africa as a potential source of traditional Chinese medicine ingredients, is “a recipe for disaster for some endangered animals such as leopards, lizards, and rhinos,” according to the London Environmental Research Agency (EIA), which investigates crimes against wildlife and the environment, the report said Wednesday.

China is promoting traditional medicine with over 2,500 years of history alongside its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, which is developing road, rail, and other major infrastructure projects across Africa.

While most treatments are plant-based, industry demand has been accused of bringing animals, including pangolins and rhinos, to the brink of extinction.

“Ultimately, the unrestricted growth of traditional Chinese medicine poses a serious threat to biodiversity in many African countries, all in the name of immediate benefit,” said Ceres Kam, a member of the EIA’s Wildlife Campaign.

“Any use of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicine has the potential to spur further demand, stimulate wildlife crime, and ultimately lead to over-exploitation.”

Lethal Medicine: How the Promotion of Certain Traditional Chinese Medicine in Africa Poses a Serious Threat to Endangered Wild Animals says that TCM products have never been more readily available in Africa as TCM companies and clinics are open in countries across the continent. and Beijing will step up its efforts. promotional activities in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most treatments for traditional Chinese medicine are plant-based, but campaigners fear the aggressive expansion of the industry will encourage the illegal trade of endangered species. [File: Mark Schiefelbein / AP Photo]

It says some retailers are pushing for complete supply chains from source to sales and called for stricter oversight of TCM as well as government action to prevent endangered wildlife from being used in its products.

While China is trying to combat rare species in traditional medicine, there are still people who prescribe drugs such as aphrodisiacs or for diseases ranging from cancer to skin conditions. The status of the ban on the use of rhino horns and tiger parts, introduced in 1993 and abruptly lifted in 2018, before the government took an obvious turn, remains uncertain.

“We understand that traditional medicine is an integral part of many cultures and plays an important role in health care in Africa and beyond,” Kam said.

“Our real concern is that such a huge expansion of traditional Chinese medicine in Africa, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will have a direct effect of skyrocketing the demand for wild animals, and, in turn, will lead to the emergence of more species. endangered or disappear. ”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare, including strengthening links between traditional African medicine and traditional African medicine, is likely to be a key issue in the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), due to start in Senegal later this year. month.

The EIA noted that South Africa, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Togo were among African countries that have already signed agreements with China to develop TCM, while South Africa and Namibia have recognized TCM as their public health systems.

China replaced the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009, with total trade exceeding $ 200 billion in 2020, according to the African Center for Strategic Studies.