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Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation

February 5, 1998 — Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans of the Committee on Resources, US House of Representatives, Washington DC


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you very much, on behalf of World Wildlife Fund, for your leadership on these and other species conservation issues.

World Wildlife Fund is an organization created in 1961. It works in about 100 countries around the world to save species and their habitat. There have been no higher priority species for us in our history than rhinos and tigers.

I am here this morning to make four basic points within the framework of a very enthusiastic endorsement of both bills. First, reauthorization of the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994 and appropriations to the special fund it creates are very impor- tant.

The statistics that you have heard from Dr. Maple already are, of course, pretty grim. But there is some good news. In places where we have seen infusions of small amounts of funding through this fund, through the African Elephant Fund in that example, you can see real progress and in a very short period of time.

In Siberia, where the world’s most majestic tigers live, the pres- sure was enormous, the tiger populations plummeting. The commu- nity came in with very small amounts of funding to increase anti- poaching assistance with the result now that the Siberian tiger population appears to have stabilized.

The black rhino population across Africa, again with modest amounts of funding, is stabilizing. The one-horned rhino popu- lations of Southern Nepal are actually rapidly increasing as a re- sult of support through the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act, sup- port from non-governmental organizations like World Wildlife Fund and other agencies.

We would very much like to see not only the reauthorization but funding of this Act at the $1 million level, which is where the re- quest is for both the African and the Asian Elephant Conservation Acts.

Second, we think that the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act is enormously important. The limitations on enforcement of exist- ing laws to get these products labeled as containing rhino horn and tiger bone are quite significant. Agents and inspectors have to be able to prove what is in these products if they find them in large shipments at the ports of entry or in the shops themselves, and that is no easy matter.

In fact, the forensics are so limited currently that the best you can do is tell perhaps that something contains bone. You cannot even tell, if you are looking for tiger bone, that it is cat bone. So being able to address the problem of product labeled as containing rhino horn and tiger bone is quite significant. Just having those products in the marketplace, whether or not they contain rhino and tiger parts, perpetuates a market that is driving additional poach- ing in the wild.

Third, we would urge the U.S. Government to maintain and even increase the priority it has placed on enforcement of existing au- thority it has to protect rhinos and tigers in U.S. marketplaces and to, with passage of the new labeling Act, to take forward the good experience in Los Angeles of helping to reduce the availability of these products in the marketplace, and intensify its efforts particu- larly in ports of entry, where the Fish and Wildlife Service is al- ready present.

The report that World Wildlife Fund’s trade monitoring arm, TRAFFIC, issued recently called While Supplies Last: the Sale of Tiger and Other Endangered Species Medicines in North America, shows that here in our own backyard, in seven North American cit- ies, almost 50 percent of the shops, 110 shops surveyed, were found to have products that appeared to contain rhino horn and tiger bone.

And finally, we invite the Congress, the administration, other non-profits, and the zoo community to join us in a national out- reach effort with the traditional Chinese medicinal community. We are now working, at World Wildlife Fund, with the American Col- lege of Traditional Chinese Medicine on better outreach to that community to help identify culturally appropriate substitutes to the use of products that contain rhino horn and tiger bone.



Source: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans of the Committee on Resources, 105th Cong, 2nd sess (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office) 1998.