Sanctions decision due for trade in wildlife

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 1994, 12:00am

AS President Bill Clinton decides today whether to sanction China for trading in tiger and rhinoceros products, America is engaged in another row over the wildlife trade.

Environmentalists accused a Canadian firm of planning to sell 50,000 mature seal carcasses to a Shanghai firm so their penises can be used for aphrodisiac medicine.

A Newfoundland company, Terra Nova, has signed a deal to sell 50,000 seals to Shanghai Fisheries, and both parties say the animals will be used for pelts, meat and oil.

But the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) claims that the only way the deal could be economically viable is if the carcasses are being sold for their penises, which retail at over US$100 (HK$772) each in China.

The contract is the first major sale of Canadian seals to the Chinese at a time when the Newfoundland seal industry is struggling to find new markets.

The IFAW is opposed to the killing of all seals, no matter what products they are made into, and says the possibility of sending them to the Chinese for aphrodisiac medicine would lead to a shooting spree.

Terra Nova denied the claims, and the state's minister of fisheries, Walter Carter, said: ''It is a pack of damn lies being spread by people whose motives are highly questionable.'' Under the rules of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) organisation, seals are not supposed to be traded for such use. But the Canadian variety is not actually listed as endangered.

The White House is expected to announce today its decision on whether to slap limited sanctions on Taiwan and China over their failure to combat trade in rhino and tiger products. It is expected the US will sanction only Taiwan.

In a related development, an official report said China now has nearly 100 rare Siberian tigers living in the wild, up from 30 four years ago.

The Xinhua (the New China News Agency) report was issued in an apparent rebuttal of accusations that Beijing is not doing enough to protect the world's tiger population.