Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle is an infamous hotspot for human vice and greed, and is now considered a hub for the wildlife trade. According to Mongabay, the WWF and Traffic: The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network have published survey findings that suggest this region to be one of the main culprits contributing to exotic animal exploitation. The article names ten species as being critically impacted: tigers, elephants, pangolins, rhinos, bears, serows, helmeted hornbills, gaurs, leopards, and turtles. In many instances, animals such as these are sought after for their suspected medicinal benefits promulgated in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Bear bile, tiger bone, and pangolin scale are just some of the kinds of animal products derived for this market. In a 2016 study, “Perception, Price, and Preference: Consumption and Protection of Wild Animals Used in Traditional Medicine”, researchers wanted to assess consumer ideologies surrounding the consumption of these products. By having participants fill out questionnaires and respond to in-depth interviews, the experimenters found that Beijing consumers “demonstrated little knowledge about TCMs, particularly their composition.” There was also a pronounced preference for those products including animal parts to be wild-sourced rather than substituted with a synthetic material or from a farm-raised animal. “This preference was most commonly attributed to a belief that TAMs derived from wild animals are more effective than materials from other sources. In contrast, only a few respondents appeared to be motivated by conservation consciousness to choose substitutes or synthetic materials.” More concerted public education efforts on the part of conservationists and a paradigm shift within the Traditional Chinese Medicine field are necessary to counteract a trade whose very foundation is embedded with animal utilization. Understanding that all animals have capabilities, and the research is in that animals such as elephants definitely have capabilities, is the necessary stepping stone towards a more meaningful life for all sentient creatures.