Chimp Bones & Monkey Blood: Folk Medicine Threatens 101 Primates

By Smriti Rao | March 29, 2010 11:59 am

gorilla-2Last week’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) put the spotlight on marine species like the bluefin tuna and some endangered sharks, as the meeting failed to protect them from being overfished to extinction. But a new survey published in the UK journal Mammal Review reminds us that it’s not just marine animals that are endangered by humans, but also primates.

The survey showed that despite CITES’ tight trade regulations for primates, more than a hundred primate species, from gorillas to monkeys to tiny lorises, are endangered by traditional medicine. The survey found that animals across the world were being hunted and killed for their perceived magical or medicinal values–of the 390 species studied, 101, or more than a quarter, are regularly killed for their body parts, with 47 species being used for their supposed medicinal properties, 34 for use in magical or religious practices, and 20 for both purposes [BBC].

The survey found that people still use primate parts to treat a wide variety of ailments. In Bolivia, spider monkey parts are used to cure snake bites, spider bites, fever, coughs, colds, shoulder pain, and sleeping problems; in India, the survey found that many people believe that macaque blood is a cure for asthma. Other monkeys or lorises have their bones or skulls ground up into powder administered with tea, or have their gall bladders ingested or blood or fat used as ointments [BBC]. Monkeys are also valued in Sierra Leone, where a small piece of chimpanzee bone is tied to a child’s waist or wrist, as parents believe it will make the child stronger as he grows older.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World

Proposal to Regulate De-Finning of Sharks De-feated

By Smriti Rao | March 24, 2010 12:31 pm

Shark_finsIn a victory for East Asian nations that consume sharkfin soup, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has shot down three of four proposals to protect sharks. Member nations of CITES who gathered in Doha, Qatar, rejected proposals that would have required countries to strictly regulate — but not ban — trade in several species of scalloped hammerhead, oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish sharks [The New York Times]. Japan also lobbied against the protections, because it strongly opposes extending the convention’s protections to any marine species (including the bluefin tuna that is so beloved by Japan’s sushi connoisseurs).

The only proposal that managed to get through was a proposal from the European Union and the island nation of Palau to protect the porbeagle shark, which is prized for its meat. But even this victory is a shallow one, as the proposal passed by a margin of just one vote, and could be overturned at the conference’s final session on Thursday.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World

Endangered Species Meeting Brings Good News for Elephants, Bad News for Coral

By Andrew Moseman | March 22, 2010 12:35 pm

ElephantThe Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) continues through Thursday of this week, and the fallout continues today.

On Friday we reported that the bluefin tuna trade ban failed thanks in large part to Japanese diplomatic efforts, denying new protections to the endangered fish, but also noted that the question of opening the ivory trade had yet to see a vote. Over the weekend the convention voted down those ivory proposals put forth by Tanzania and Zambia, which would have allowed one-off sales of ivory from government stockpiles. The ivory trade was banned in 1989, but two sales have since been granted to nations showing effective conservation [BBC News]. However, fears that such sales encourage poaching led the meeting’s attendees to reject the new proposals.

While most conservation groups lobbied against the ivory proposal, another of their pet causes—offering more protection for corals against harvesters who sell them as jewelry—failed at CITES. The proposed restrictions would have stopped short of a trade ban but required countries to ensure better regulations and to ensure that stocks of the slow-growing corals, in the family coralliidae, were sustainably harvested [The New York Times]. The provision garnered 64 “yes” votes to 59 for “no,” but needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Related Content:
80beats: Bluefin Tuna is Still on the Menu: Trade Ban Fails at International Summit
80beats: Is Ivory Season Starting, Just As Tuna Season’s Ending?
80beats:Scientists Say Ban Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Trade–and Sushi Chefs Shudder
80beats: Elephant-Lovers Worry About Controversial Ivory Auctions in Africa

Image: flickr / wwarby


Bluefin Tuna Is Still on the Menu: Trade Ban Fails at International Summit

By Andrew Moseman | March 19, 2010 10:43 am

bluefinOn Monday, we reported that the United States and the European Union were spearheading an effort to ban the international trade of bluefin tuna at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Now that the week is ending, so are the hopes for the proposal that could have protected the vanishing fish. It failed by a wide margin, thanks largely to the diplomatic efforts of Japan.

Japan consumes around three-quarters of the globe’s bluefin tuna catch, with almost all of it served raw as sushi and sashimi, of which it is the most sought-after variety [Christian Science Monitor]. It can be an expensive delicacy there. In addition, the transformation of sushi from a luxury dish to a cheap food available at the corner store seems to be one of the factors that has led to quickly diminishing tuna stocks. The Japanese government, while acknowledging that the species is in danger, pledged to defeat the proposal or else opt out of complying with it.

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Is Ivory Season Starting, Just as Tuna Season's Ending?

By Smriti Rao | March 15, 2010 4:50 pm

bluefinSushi chefs in Japan are keeping a close eye on Doha, Qatar this week as delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) debate the future of their beloved bluefin tuna. The fish, a delicacy in Japan that can sell for more than $100,000 apiece, is being overfished, and convention delegates aim to prevent the tuna from becoming extinct altogether. The proposal on the table: A complete ban on international trade of the fish to allow stocks to regenerate.

The bluefin tuna ban was proposed by Monaco, and the vote will probably come up next week. Japan has already dispatched a delegation to Doha with the message that Japan won’t comply with a total ban, and would instead prefer a fishing quota. But quotas have failed to help the depleted bluefin tuna stocks thus far. Japan last year pledged to help meet an accord to slash the total catch in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by 40 percent, although environmental groups charge that such quotas are routinely exceeded [AFP].

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World

Scientists Say Ban Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Trade–and Sushi Chefs Shudder

By Aline Reynolds | October 30, 2009 10:07 am

bluefin-tunaAtlantic bluefin tuna populations have declined so drastically that trade in the fish should be completely outlawed, says a new report. The population of the Atlantic tuna, a sushi staple, is now about 15 percent of the original stock size, says International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ (ICCAT). The report has delighted conservation groups, who have criticized ICCAT’s regulation policies. The report was triggered by Monaco’s recent proposal to ban international trade in the Atlantic bluefin under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – a proposal that has gathered support from several other European countries [BBC News].

ICCAT has a history of setting quotas higher for the fish than scientists say is safe, while CITES seems to take a more proactive approach.Atlantic bluefin tuna are mainly caught from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, but most of the meat is consumed in Asia, particularly Japan. Japan has previously argued that commercial fish species should be controlled by bodies like ICCAT rather than CITES [BBC News]. In Japan, the fish are so highly prized that a single giant tuna can sell for more than $100,000 at the wholesale fish market. ICCAT will meet in 10 days to discuss the report.

Related Content:
80beats: Human Appetite for Sharks Pushes Many Toward Extinction
80beats: Are Fish Farms the Answer to World Hunger or a Blight on the Oceans?
80beats: Documentary on Endangered Bluefin Tuna Reels in Sushi Joints & Celebrities

Image: Wikimedia Commons


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