BEIJING - China has pledged to uphold a ban on the trade of tiger parts, ending speculation that it would bow to commercial interests and seek permission to relax the ban for captive-bred tigers at an international meeting next month.
China banned the sale of tiger bones and hides in 1993, virtually wiping out the market for traditional medicines made from tiger parts.
But there had been speculation that China, under pressure from commercial breeders, would push to relax the ban at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) at the The Hague in June.
State Forestry Administration (SFA) spokesman Liu Xiongying said the government remained committed to the ban, the official China Daily newspaper reported on Thursday.
"China will strengthen the crackdown on illegal trade of tiger parts and forge cooperation with other countries to protect tiger habitats," the paper quoted Liu as saying.
A SFA official contacted by Reuters by telephone confirmed the decision and denied that China would apply to have the ban lifted at the CITIES meeting.
"At this stage, we are keeping this ban," the official said, who declined to leave his name.
Tiger bones are used to treat everything from skin disease and convulsions to laziness, malaria and rheumatism. Tiger penis is believed by many to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
Commercial breeders said allowing the trade in parts from captive-bred tigers would eventually help preserve the animal.
China has only about 30 tigers living in the wild but keeps about 5,000 tigers in several breeding centres.
Conservationists have warned that any relaxation of the ban would result in a massive surge in demand for tiger parts and increased poaching of wild tigers.
There are believed to be only 5,000 to 7,000 tigers remaining in the wild, with the largest number in India.
Story Date: 1/6/2007