TRAFFIC East Asia commissioned a telephone survey by the Social Sciences Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong to document the attitudes of local residents toward the use of wildlife as food and medicine. The survey polled 1,157 people, who were chosen by a scientifically random method so as to statistically represent the Hong Kong Chinese population as a whole.
The results are a happy surprise, in that they show widespread concern among Hong Kong people for endangered species used in medicine, said Samuel Lee, TRAFFIC East Asia Programme Officer and author of the study. In fact, TCM users as a whole were more concerned about wildlife than non-users.
The need for such a survey became apparent after repeated instances of illegal trade of rhino horn, Tiger bone and their medicinal derivatives in Hong Kong. TRAFFIC East Asia hopes that documenting the attitude of wildlife-users and their demographic profile will improve the success of public awareness and law enforcement efforts aimed at stopping illegal trade of endangered species.
The survey found that a significant proportion of the Hong Kong Chinese population (59%), especially those who are younger and better educated, expressed concern about endangered species. For those TCM users who said they had used endangered species as medicine, 30% stated they would stop using such medicines immediately once they found out such species were protected by law. However, another 14% of TCM users would knowingly continue to consume such medicines, while another 37% might take such medicines depending on the situation.
Unfortunately, more than half of TCM users would not ask about the ingredients of the medicines they consume, but rather would rely on the judgment and advice of TCM practitioners and shop assistants. Therefore, many could unwittingly consume medicines containing protected species. About 1 percent of the population admitted previously consuming medicine purporting to contain Tiger bone, and older men were more likely to be Tiger-bone users, according to the TRAFFIC study. Two percent had used medicines containing rhino horn.
Market research of this type is essential for understanding the dynamics of the black market trade in endangered species parts used as medicine, said Judy Mills, Director of TRAFFIC East Asia. We know there are still people out there willing to use Tiger bone and rhino horn despite trade bans, but now we know more about who they are and what motivates them.
The survey also showed that the most popular exotic animals eaten by Hong Kong Chinese are snake, followed by civet cat and Pangolin. Mainland China is the most popular place for Hong Kong residents to eat such cuisine. Younger females were more likely than other respondents to have consumed tonic food such as edible swiftlet nest.
For more information, please contact Samuel Lee at TRAFFIC East Asia on tel. +852 2973 9494,
Margaret Chan at WWF Hong Kong on tel. +852 2526 1011.