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  PlanetArk 17 Nov 06
UK Police Crack Down on Rare Species Medicine Trade

LONDON - London police on Friday launched a crackdown on the illegal sale of endangered species used in the city's Chinese medicine shops, a practice which contributes to a decline among some of the world's rarest beasts.

While most of the capital's Chinese medicine retailers are reputable and do not sell illegal items, Scotland Yard fears there is a growing market in products made from tiger bone, rhino horn, bear bile and musk.

"It is quite unacceptable that illegal acts in London are contributing to the decline of creatures like the tiger," said Andy Fisher, head of the Metropolitan Police's wildlife crime unit.

Illegal trade is thought to be largely responsible for a number of rare breeds being decimated. There are now estimated to be fewer than 5,000 tigers left in the wild compared with 100,000 in 1990.

Even more sobering is the fact that since 1970, about 98 percent of the world's black rhino have been wiped out because of demand for their horn -- largely driven by the Chinese medicine trade.

The crackdown, called Operation Charm, has the support of London's Chinese community, not least the president of the Federation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (FTCM).

Professor Bo-Ying Ma said his members would do what they could to stamp out the illegal trade. "We are not utilising or selling such materials in any form," he said in a statement.

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