A new report published on Wednesday by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned that the expansion of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in many African countries risks fueling illegal wildlife trade and threatens the future of some of the world’s most endangered species.
The report was titled Lethal Remedy: How the promotion of some traditional Chinese medicine in Africa poses a major threat to endangered wildlife.
Dating back to more than 2,500 years, China has been promoting traditional medicine in Africa.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which investigates wildlife and environmental crime, said the growth of the TCM market, coupled with the perception of Africa as a potential source of TCM ingredients, is a “prescription for disaster for some endangered animal species, such as leopards, pangolins and rhinos.”
While most treatments are plant-based, demand from the industry has been blamed for pushing animals, including pangolins and rhinos, to the brink of extinction.
“Ultimately, the unfettered growth of TCM poses a serious threat to the biodiversity found in many African countries, all in the name of short-term profit,” EIA Wildlife Campaigner Ceres Kam said in a statement.
“Any utilisation of threatened species in TCM could potentially stimulate further demand, incentivise wildlife crime and ultimately lead to overexploitation.”
“We understand that traditional medicine is integral to many cultures and plays an important role in healthcare in Africa and beyond,” Kam said.
“Our very real concern is that such a huge expansion of TCM in Africa, as is happening under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will have the knock-on effect of drastically increasing demand for treatments containing wildlife and, in turn, cause more species to become threatened or extinct.”
According to the EIA, South Africa, Cameroon, Tanzania and Togo were among African countries that had already signed agreements with China to develop TCM while South Africa and Namibia had recognised TCM in their public health systems.