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Illegal sales.

A recent undercover survey of traditional Chinese medicine shops in New York City and San Francisco found widely available illegal products made from endangered species.

TRAFFIC, the world's leading wildlife trade monitoring network, found that most of the 60 stores visited offered at least one product containing an endangered species. The availability of tiger and rhino products, the focus of much legal and conservation attention in recent years, has decreased significantly in San Francisco since a similar survey in 1997, but availability remains high in New York City.

"Our findings indicate that illegal wildlife sales remain a serious problem in New York City," said Craig Hoover of TRAFFIC, a joint program of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN--The World Conservation Union. "The results were encouraging, though, because they show that outreach to traditional medicine users, like we've done in San Francisco in the past few years, can reduce demand."

The TRAFFIC investigation began last year, and was a follow-up to a similar survey in 1997. It was designed to gauge changes since the first TRAFFIC survey led to the enactment of the federal Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act in 1998. After that first survey, the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) launched a public education campaign in San Francisco with WWF that has received widespread support from the Chinese community.

In San Francisco, that public education effort and enforcement of the federal law appear to have had an effect. But as tiger bone products have become scarce, there has been a troubling increase in products containing leopard bone as a substitute for the harder-to-find tiger bone.

"It's clear from TRAFFIC's findings that the most effective strategy is to bolster law enforcement by engaging leadership within the traditional medicine community," said Ginette Hemley, vice president for species conservation at WWF. "We are now going to extend to New York our effective public awareness campaign in San Francisco, again in collaboration with the ACTCM. And we're going to redouble our efforts to reduce demand for all endangered species."

Trade in leopards, rhinos, and tigers is illegal under both international treaty and the Endangered Species Act. TRAFFIC also surveyed shops for musk deer and bear bile products, whose sales are sometimes illegal, depending on the species involved or country of origin. Both products were widely available.

There are numerous herbal alternatives to the use of wildlife in traditional Chinese medicine; promoting these alternatives has been a focus of WWF and ACTCM's outreach in San Francisco.

--World Wildlife Fund
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Title Annotation:In Short
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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