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There is a huge highway feeding wildlife parts to East Asia for use in traditional medicine, mainly to China, though Vietnam and the Philippines are rapidly expanding markets. This, despite the fact that all of these nations, on paper at least, ban the import of endangered animals or their parts. And most of these species are endangered! Many are vanishing from the earth because of this illegal trade run by an international crime syndicate that rivals drug and weapon trafficking in size and scope ($20 billion per year). The poor countries of Southeast Asia and India are easy sources. They are home to the right species, much poverty, and lax law enforcement. What villager living in squalor can resist hundreds of dollars to shoot an endangered animal? They could care less about endangered. And no matter that the syndicate behind the scenes will get up to $150,000 in China for a sliced up tiger. Or $50,000 for a pound of ground up rhino horn.

The insatiable demand for wildlife parts has soared in the past 25 years, in tandem with the expanding middle and wealthy classes in China and elsewhere. And China has even become an exporter of this contraband, to 26 countries around the world, including the U.S. with its large Asian population. The ingredients are used in the same ancient remedies that have been prescribed for thousands of years, the concoctions compiled in The Great Herbal, written in 1596 during the Ming Dynasty by emperor Shen Nung. All efforts to persuade the Chinese that these treatments have no basis in science have been dismal failures. So the demand continues, and for the rarest of the rare-tiger, rhino, panda, and soon the elephant-it threatens to hunt them off the planet.

© Danny Kimberlin 2015