South Korea's imports of powdered tiger bone shot up from 340kg (750lb) for the 15 years between 1975 and 1990 to 1,700kg (3,748lb) last year alone, according to a report presented to the meeting by the trade monitoring body TRAFIC. The 1,700kg is equivalent to 200 tigers; there are believed to be only about 6,000 left in the wild.
Most of the bone came from China which, like South Korea, signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Under the treaty, there should be a ban on trading products from tigers and rhinos. The countries claim the expanding trade in bone comes from stockpiles, with the tigers having been killed years ago.
But Simon Lyster, a senior official with the World Wide Fund for Nature, said he believed that was unlikely. He said poachers were still killing tigers in their hundreds, and 'traditional Chinese medicine is the main reason'. Powdered rhinoceros horn is also cherished as an ingredient in traditional medicines.
At the CITES meeting in Geneva, the WWF is calling for trade sanctions against China, South Korea and Taiwan, which is also involved.
'There needs to be much stronger enforcement within those countries by their own national authorities,' Dr Lyster said.Reuse content