Thousands of animal and plant species used in Chinese medicines will be surveyed in the first comprehensive study of the availability and use of ingredients.
Chinese authorities have given approval for Asian Bureau for Conservation founding director Dr John MacKinnon to carry out the US$25,000 (HK$195,000) study.
'We want to get some kind of feeling of the quantities, what they're using, how much, where it is coming from, how important it is and whether there are substitutes they can use instead,' Dr MacKinnon said.
Researchers will sample leading wildlife and medicine markets and manufacturers of patented medicines.
They aimed 'to know whether it is a problem or whether there is plenty of material to supply the need,' Dr MacKinnon said.
'I am sure there is not. And [we need to] get a scale of which species are really endangered in this way.' The survey could recommend listing endangered animals on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
Dr MacKinnon, who advises the Chinese Government on conservation issues, admitted such bans might drive the trade underground.
The bureau has also been studying the wildlife food trade. Dr MacKinnon has recommended a moratorium on trade between China and Vietnam.