Publications archive - Biodiversity
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Proceedings of the second Australian Symposium on traditional medicine and wildlife conservation
Melbourne Australia, March 1999
Mr Haisheng Zhao
Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China - Melbourne
It truly gives me a great pleasure and honour to attend this symposium on Traditional Medicine and Wildlife Conservation. I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to appear before you and join you today in the discussion of how government, industry and community groups associated with Chinese medicine practices and wildlife conservation, could better communicate and understand each other.
First of all, please allow me, on behalf of Mr. Wu Ronghe, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Melbourne, to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Environment Australia, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and Traffic-Oceania on jointly organising this symposium. I also wish to welcome everybody to Melbourne and extend my cordial greetings to everyone present here today.
The purpose of today’s symposium is to encourage communication and mutual understanding of Chinese medicine practices and its relationship with wildlife conservation, to provide information on alternatives to the use of endangered species in Chinese medicine and the laws controlling protected species and traditional medicines. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some brief information about what China has done in protecting its environment, especially the ecological environment and biodiversity.
The protection of wild plants and animals is a global issue and also a common task for mankind. The Chinese Government has paid great attention to environmental issues and has made environmental protection an important aspect of the improvement of the people’s living standards and quality of life. According to China’s Constitution; 'The State protects and improves the living environment and the ecological environment, ensures the rational use of natural resources and protects rare animals and plants. The appropriation or damage of natural resources by any organisation or individual by whatever means is prohibited'.
We realise that the prevention and control of environmental pollution and ecological destruction and the rational exploitation and utilisation of natural resources are of vital importance to China’s overall interests and long-term development. Since the early 1980s, China has begun to enact and implement a series of policies, laws and measures for environmental protection, making environmental protection one of China’s basic national policies. Many special laws and regulations, including Forestry Law, Grassland Law, Wild Animals Protection Law, Regulations on Nature Reserves, Regulations for Implementation of the Protection of Terrestrial Wildlife have been enacted and promulgated. Environmental protection organisations have also been established at various levels to take charge of related environmental and resources protection work. At present, the total number of various types of environmental protection workers employed by the various departments and enterprises exceed 200,000.
Ecological environmental protection has long been regarded as the focal point of China’s environmental protection work. The government has paid special attention to the construction of forest ecological projects. Since 1978 China has established ten forest ecological projects, with a scheduled afforestation area of 120 million hectares, aimed mainly at protecting and improving the natural eco-environment and realising the sustainable use of natural resources.
We have also adopted the on-site conservation and off-site preservation methods to protect biodiversity. Currently, there are 612 national-level rare and endangered species of flora and fauna listed as key protection species, including 258 species of wild animals and 354 species of plants. Artificial reproduction has been successfully implemented for more than 60 species of rare and endangered animals, and through propagation, such species as David’s deer, wild horse and Saiga tatarica have been re-introduced.
Establishing nature reserves is the most effective method for the in situ conservation of wild plants and animals. By the end of 1997, China established 932 nature reserves of rather diversified types covering a total area of 76.71 million hectares (or 7.29 % of China’s territory). The establishment of natural reserves has put a number of representative and typical natural eco-systems with scientific research value as well as rare and endangered species under effective protection.
Establishing zoological gardens, botanical gardens and various artificial breeding centres is an effective method for off-site preservation of various species of wild animals and plants. By the end of 1995 China had set up 175 zoological gardens and zoological exhibition sites in public parks, 227 artificial breeding centres for wild animals, more than 60 large botanical gardens and 255 wild plant gene and cell banks to ensure the continuation of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, including the Giant panda, Chinese alligator, Chinese sturgeon, White-flag dauphin, Manchurian tiger, Crested ibis, Cathay silver fir, Dovetree, Cycas revoluta and Camellia chrysantha tuyama. In addition, some dozen specimen centres, one gene bank and two cell banks for wild animals, which have helped genetic polymorphism research and preservation work, have also been established.
The medical use and trade in rhinoceros horn, tiger bone and many other rare and endangered animals is strictly prohibited by the Government, and illegal hunting of rare wild animals is severely punished by law.
As a member of the international community, China has taken an active part in international environmental affairs, striven to promote international cooperation in the field of environmental protection and earnestly fulfilled its international obligations. Over the past ten-odd years China has successively signed bilateral environmental protection cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding with many countries, including Australia.
Since 1979 China has signed a series of international environmental conventions and agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
To further promote international cooperation in the environment and development fields, China set up the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development in April 1992, composed of more than 40 leading specialists and well-known public figures from China and other countries, to be responsible for submitting proposals and advisory opinions to the Chinese Government.
As we all know, Chinese medicine has been an integral part of the Chinese culture, heritage and healthcare for over 4 000 years. With remarkable efficacy, striking national characteristics, unique diagnostic methods, systematic theoretical system and abundant historical literature materials, Chinese medicine also stands as an indispensable part of the medical sciences of the world.
There are a great variety of pharmaceutical materials used in Chinese medicine, most of which are herbaceous or ligneous in nature. Like I mentioned before, the Chinese Government is fully aware of the importance of preserving and conserving endangered wild plants and animals. We strictly prohibit the medical use and trade in rhinoceros horn, tiger-bone and many other rare and endangered animals and severely punish the illegal hunting of rare wild animals. We not only carry out environmental publicity and education to enhance the whole nation’s awareness of conservation issues, but also encourage Chinese medicine practitioners to use alternative products wherever possible. Moreover, most of the medicinal plants and herbs formerly collected from the wild, are now under cultivation.
Chinese medicine is now playing a more influential role in the medical field of Australia and is increasingly moving into the mainstream. It is encouraging to see that Chinese medicine is gradually being recognised and acknowledged as a legitimate and effective means of prevention, treatment and cure of illness here in Australia. I have no doubt that Australian Chinese medicine practitioners are fully aware of their responsibilities and obligation toward endangered species and will strictly observe all the relevant environment protection laws, regulations and measures.
Chinese medicine practitioners in Australia are now facing a precious historical opportunity as well as a great challenge. To find a sensible balance between the preservation and conservation of endangered wild plants and animals and the practice of Chinese medicine is critical to the further development of the Chinese medicine industry in Australia.
I am confident that such a balance will soon be found and I am sure that Chinese medicine practitioners throughout the world will make their unique contribution not only to the flourishing practice of Chinese medicine, but also the protection of endangered species under threat.
Today’s symposium is another significant step towards the above objectives. It will certainly help Chinese medicine practitioners to be more aware of the conservation issues when dealing with endangered species and to cease the use of products containing or claiming to contain endangered wildlife in the medicine.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation once again to the symposium organisers for their wonderful efforts and wish the symposium a huge success.