High demand for animal parts driving illegal trade

Aphrodisiac value, traditional medicine, exotic food and decorative items are among the “uses” of animal parts, which fuel the lucrative wildlife trade.

Besides its skin, bones and claws, the tiger’s penis is also highly prized for its supposed potency.

Although such claims have no medical basis, the organ of the big cat is still being sold to enhance male virility and ends up in very expensive soups.

Tigers, elephants and snakes such as pythons are also killed to making trophies and luxury goods such as shoes, belts and bags.

The bones of tigers, bile and gall bladder of bears, porcupine bezoars (foreign material that is swallowed and collects in the stomach) and scales of pangolin are among the parts still being used in traditional medicine.

The flesh of the pangolin is also eaten as a sex stimulant.

Geckos are also much sought after for their supposed aphrodisiac value. A lizard weighing 300gm now sells for about US$1,200 (RM3,715).

Traffic South-East Asia’s senior programme officer Kanitha Krishna­samy said tigers were also being hunted for their teeth, claws and whiskers – used for “magic or superstition” – while freshwater tortoises and turtles and deer were sold as food.

She said while some of the wildlife parts were exported, there was still a demand for such “exotic” food among locals.

Kanitha noted that in Sabah and Sarawak, orang utan and bears were even kept as pets.

As for banned bear products, Malaysia ranks fourth among 13 countries studied in Traffic’s regional survey on traditional medicine shops across Asia.

“Although it is completely illegal, the trade continues,” she said, citing a case in 2011 when the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) seized parts of a leopard, bear and deer from a man’s freezer in Pahang.

Kanitha said the most powerful action Malaysians could take in fighting illegal wildlife trade was to “think before buying”.

“Don’t consume the meat of totally protected or endangered wildlife, don’t buy products and medicines made from these animals, don’t take them home as pets and don’t support places which do all these.

“When the demand stops, so will the destruction,” she said, adding that speaking up about the issue would help make decision-makers sit up and take notice.

On its part, Perhilitan has urged the public to report suspected illegal activities such as poaching, trapping or the sale of illegal wildlife meat to its hotline at 1-800-885-151 or e-mail it to webmaster@wildlife.gov.my.

To report to Traffic, contact the network’s 24-hour Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-356 4194.

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