Growth of Chinese traditional medicine in Africa threatens wildlife | Environment News

New report says Beijing favors industry development alongside its flagship Belt and Road Initiative.

The Beijing-backed expansion of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in many African countries threatens to fuel illegal wildlife trade and threaten the future of some of the world’s most endangered species, a new report warns.

The growth of the TCM market, coupled with the perception of Africa as a potential source of TCM ingredients, is a “recipe for disaster for some endangered species, such as leopards, pangolins and rhinoceroses,” the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which investigates wildlife and environmental crime, says the report published Wednesday.

China is promoting traditional medicine, dating back more than 2,500 years, 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 is blamed for pushing animals to the brink of extinction, including pangolins and rhinoceroses.

“Ultimately, the rampant growth of TCM poses a serious threat to biodiversity in many African countries, all in the name of short-term gains,” EIA Wildlife Campaigner Ceres Kam said in a statement.

“Any use of endangered species in TCM could potentially drive further demand, fuel wildlife crime and ultimately lead to over-exploitation.”

The report, Lethal Remedy: How the promotion of some traditional Chinese medicine in Africa poses a major threat to endangered wildlife, said TCM products had never been more accessible in Africa, with TCM companies and clinics located in countries across the continent and Beijing which is intensifying promotional activities in line with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most TCM treatments are plant-based, but activists fear the industry’s aggressive expansion will further fuel illegal trade in endangered species [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

It said some retailers were seeking complete supply chains from source to sale, and urged stricter oversight of TCM and government action to prevent the use of endangered wildlife in their products.

Although China has tried to address rare species in traditional medicine, there are still those who prescribe drugs as aphrodisiacs or to treat diseases, from cancer to skin conditions. The status of a ban on the use of rhino horn and tiger parts, imposed in 1993 and suddenly lifted in 2018 before the government made a marked turnaround, 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 very real concern is that such a massive expansion of TCM in Africa, as is happening under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, will have the knock-on effect of a drastic increase in demand for treatments containing wildlife. and, in turn, will cause more species to be threatened or become extinct.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health care, including strengthening ties between TCM and traditional African medicine, is likely to be a central theme at the upcoming China-Africa Cooperation Forum (FOCAC), to be held later this year. Senegal will start. month.

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

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

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