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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

18 February 1999

ENDANGERED SPECIES DISAPPEAR FROM RETAIL SHELVES


Exotic ingredients such as Bengal Tiger and White Rhino will find themselves 'discontinued' from Australian shop shelves, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Sharman Stone MP, said today.

"Although trade in endangered species is illegal in Australia, to date there have been no prosecutions because of the difficulty in proving where substances originated once they had been mixed with other ingredients."

Passage of new legislation through the Senate today will prohibit the importation of products claiming to contain endangered species ingredients.

"With this new amendment there will be no ifs or buts. If the product claims to contain endangered species ingredients, whether the content is checked or not, importers will be prosecuted."

The Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Amendment Act 1998 will prohibit the importation of products that claim to contain endangered species, other than in limited circumstances in which a permit would be required, for example for scientific research.

"One of the biggest threats to the world's endangered species is poaching for traditional medicines. Many rare animals have highly valued body parts, such as Asian tigers, which are believed to contain aphrodisiac qualities," Sharman Stone said.

"Illegal trafficking has severely depleted stocks of endangered species including Bengal Tigers and White Rhinoceros. Today, less than 5,000 tigers exist in the world and that number is still declining. At the beginning of the century, there were over 100,000 roaming wild throughout Asia."

"It would be a tragedy if these magnificent animals were lost to us and future generations forever."

In 1995 a survey found that of 119 premises in Australia supplying traditional medicine, 50% were selling products that claimed to contain endangered species including tiger, leopard, bear, rhinoceros and saiga antelope.

Between 1991 and 1996, over 53,000 illegal traditional medicine products purporting to contain endangered species were seized by Australian Customs.

Australia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The amendments to the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 further demonstrate Australia's commitment to protecting endangered species.

"The Howard Government is also committed to doing everything possible to protect and preserve Australia's endangered species for future generations. We have established the $1.25 billion Natural Heritage Trust, the largest environmental package ever by an Australian Government. As part of the NHT, the Endangered Species Program aims to protect our own precious rare plants and animals and restore them to a secure status in the wild."

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia