Rodent parts seen as tiger bone substitute

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 1997, 12:00am

An international conference is to be told how rodent parts can be used instead of tiger bone in traditional Chinese medicine.

The conference, which organisers hope will become an annual event, will focus on substitutes for tiger bone, used to cure rheumatism.

Organisers said the rodent was found in Tibet, but details would only be disclosed at the December conference.

The symposium will also be looking at substitutes for musk. Extracted from musk deer, it is used to treat seizures and fever, and is also a key ingredient in perfume.

The species, which occurs in China, the Indian sub-continent and Russia, numbers more than 700,000. Experts estimate that the demand for musk on the mainland runs at up to 200,000 deer a year.

'These things are being harvested at a shocking rate, so we are very worried. It is a crisis situation,' said Judy Mills, director of TRAFFIC East Asia, the World Wide Fund for Nature trade management programme.

'Musk is probably a far more important medicine than either tiger bone or rhino horn. There are at least 300 patented Chinese medicines containing musk.' Annual demand for musk in China is between 500 and and 1,000 kilograms. But farmed musk deer - up to 2,000 are in captivity in China - produce only 10 kilograms of musk a year.

Scientists from the mainland's Ministry of Public Health and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences will attend the symposium, jointly organised by TRAFFIC East Asia and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.