Extinction . . . made in Taiwan

Follow the trade in endangered species, and chances are you'll end up in Taiwan. For tigers, rhinos, and a host of other species, Taiwan is the last stop on the road to extinction.
Earth Island's Endangered Species Project is leading an international coalition of environmental groups in an aggressive campaign to force Taiwan to close its borders to the illegal trade in endangered species, crack down on poachers, and put the dealers out of business.
Here's how you can help...

Taiwan is the
End of the Line
For endangered species

reprinted from the Endangered Species Project of the Earth Island Institute by permission of Sanuel LaBudde
unting and habitat loss have taken many species to the threshold of extinction. Tragically, international efforts to address these threats to endangered species have been eclipsed by a new danger: age-old human greed allied with modern technology. Global telecommunications and international commerce have given birth to a thriving illegal market for the transport and sale of endangered species. Today, even the most remote jungle or wilderness is no more than a day or two away from the black market.
One nation in particular has taken criminal advantage of these developments to plunder the planet's vanishing wildlife. The tiny island nation of Taiwan has become the final destination for everything from Alaskan grizzlies and African rhinos to Siberian tigers and snow leopards.
Taiwan's ruthless leadership in the extermination of the Earth's wildlife has been thoroughly documented by some of the world's leading environmental organizations. Investigation after investigation have graphically illustrated Taiwan's prodigious consumption of tigers, bears, rhinos, orangutans, leopards and other species. The insatiable appetite of the Taiwanese for the bones, skins, organs and other body parts derived from these species now powers a multimillion dollar international poaching and smuggling network that could eliminate some species within a matter of months.
After two years of research on the illegal trade in tigers, primates and other species, Endangered Species Project investigators have identified Taiwan as the principal culprit behind Asia's commerce in endangered wildlife. Parallel field studies conducted by the Environmental Investigation Agency into the illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory also identified Taiwan as the primary force behind the demise of African and Asian rhinos.
This exhaustive research also showed how successfully Taiwan has circumvented attempts to save endangered species from extinction. Over the past 30 years, the environmental community, governments and international wildlife agencies have focused conservation efforts on range states- those nations where populations of threatened species reside. Despite investments of tens of millions of dollars, the lucrative trade in endangered species has overrun conservation efforts on all fronts. Spurred by Taiwan's intense demand for wildlife and its contemptuous indifference to the survival of these species, poachers and smugglers are gunning down the last of the world's wildlife to sate the appetites of their Taiwanese paymasters.
Unless the Taiwanese government closes its borders to the illegal trade, cracks down on smugglers, and puts the dealers out of business through seizure and destruction of their inventories, species like tigers and rhinos soon will be gone forever.
Taiwanese authorities still refuse to admit that a problem even exists. The evidence against Taiwan is so overwhelming that these denials would be comic were not the results so tragic. Taiwanese merchants continue to openly peddle rhino horn and tiger bone on the shelves of shops and stores within walking distance of government offices and police stations. The government's indifference to the illegal trade has made it almost as easy to buy tiger bones in Taiwan as it is to buy Taiwanese-made products in the United States.
Economics play a critical role in endangered species trade. Taiwan has the 12th highest per capita income in the world and more than $85 billion dollars in foreign currency reserves. In 1990 Taiwan exported $23.3 billion in goods to the United States, its largest trading partner. Much of this newly acquired wealth - provided by American consumers - ultimately funds poaching and smuggling operations around the world.
In response to this crisis, Earth Island Institute's Endangered Species Project, in conjunction with the Environmental Investigation Agency, the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations, has launched a campaign to end Taiwan's trafficking in endangered species. This multifaceted campaign is designed to show the Taiwanese government that trading in endangered species doesn't pay, and that the loss in trade and international prestige will far outweigh the profits to be made from driving tigers and rhinos to extinction.
Our efforts to save these species rely on your participation. Please, act today, and let's begin the battle to save tigers and rhinos for the future.

Taiwan Defies International Law

All wildlife trade is regulated by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is administered by the United Nations. International sale and trade of species listed on CITES Appendix I is prohibited. Species on CITES Appendix II can be traded only after a CITES scientific committee has given its approval. Tigers, leopards, rhinos, elephants, orangutans, pandas and all species of Asiatic bears and cats are on Appendix I. All other species of bears and most Asian primates are on Appendix I or II. Every one of these species is illegally traded on the Taiwanese black market.
On paper, Taiwan would appear to have one of the world's most comprehensive programs for protecting endangered species. As evidenced by its role as the world's largest market for tigers, rhinos and other species on the verge of extinction, Taiwan's wildlife laws are worse than useless.
In 1989 Taiwan passed its much-celebrated Wildlife Conservation Law. On paper this law is stricter than CITES regulations. Article 5 of the law states "Any animal on the conservation list may not be disturbed, abused, hunted, captured, traded, exchanged, illegally owned, killed or processed, unless under special circumstances recognized in this or related laws."
Smugglers, however, have succeeded in corrupting Taiwan's enforcement agencies of police, customs and coast guard officials. They benefit from the Taiwanese government's indifference . . . of collusion. The 1989 Wildlife Conservation Law has accomplished nothing beyond creating an illusion that the Taiwanese government is trying to eliminate the illegal trafficking in endangered species. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Taiwan also has passed many other wildlife laws - most of which are completely ignored. The trade and sale of rhino horn continues to be freely available at thousands of shops throughout Taiwan. The ineffectiveness of these laws reflects the government's complete lack of interest in using these laws for any purpose except as a smokescreen to mask Taiwan's wholesale trafficking in endangered species.
The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture (COA), the agency responsible for the enforcement of these laws, maintains that its agents have "unshakable determination" as "sincere practitioners of wildlife conservation." The vice chairman of the COA, Lin Shiang-nung, says "trading of tigers and their products has been prohibited since 1985 according to the law, and environmentalist charges are simply groundless." The tons of rhino horn, tiger bone and the remains of countless other species openly sold throughout the island nation offer mute testimony and damning evidence to the contrary.

Tigers in peril

Tigers stalked the earth long before the evolution of Homo sapiens. The early relatives of the world's largest cat began to evolve over 50 million years ago. Since 1900, when there were more than 100,000 tigers, the world's tiger population has plummeted more than 95 percent.
Fewer than 5,000 tigers survive in the wild. The Caspian, Bali and Javan species of tigers have become extinct since 1950, and China tigers have become so rare that they now are considered biologically extinct. Only 200 Siberian tigers - the world's largest cat - survive in isolated habitats. They, too, could be hunted to extinction within two years. The remaining populations on Bengal, Sumatran and Indochinese tigers all suffer from relentless poaching; the high market demand for tiger bone may lead to their extinction in the wild within the next five years.
There remains one country where tigers still can be found in abundance: Taiwan. Tigers - or, more precisely, the remains of tigers - are openly bought and sold in most of Taiwan's 13,500 pharmaceutical and specialty shops.
Historically, the decline of tigers was caused by habitat loss, big game hunting and government extermination programs. Today, however, the biggest threat to the tiger is the demand for its bones and other body parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese Materia Medica alleges that tiger bones can be used to remedy rheumatic pain, muscle cramps, typhoid fever, malaria, rabies scabies, convulsions, boils and to expel evil spirits. The ground bones are mixed in wines and tonics or used in pills and balms.
Taiwan Trade Trends magazine cited one Taiwanese brewery as importing almost half a ton of tiger bone wine in one year. One famous restaurant outside of Taipei serves tiger penis soup, considered a powerful aphrodisiac, for $320 per bowl.
The illicit tiger trade is big business. Dealers and businessmen who speculate in endangered species often stockpile as many animal products as possible to drive up prices. In what can only be described as the epitome of greed, these organized crime speculators are betting on extinction to drive up the price of their ill-gotten inventories. The resulting increase in demand puts even more pressure on the remaining populations in the wild through increased poaching.
Taiwanese wildlife racketeers may pay a poacher as much as $15,000 for a single tiger; the tiger parts can be sold individually for as much as $60,000. Merchants and pharmacists may charge more than $500 dollars a pound for tiger bone. These tremendous profits to be made from the bloody tiger trade are too large to be ignored by the impoverished residents of the tigers' native habitats. Unless Taiwan's market for tigers is closed, poachers will hunt down the last wild tigers.
Tigers have been listed on CITES Appendix I since 1975.

Estimated tiger population

Indochinese tiger        1,000
Indian or Bengal tiger	 3,000
Siberian tiger          200-250
South China tiger        30-50
Sumatran tiger          400-650
Javan tiger         extinct in 1980s
Caspian tiger       extinct in 1970s
Bali tiger          extinct in 1940s
Total              4,630-4,950

Open season on endangered species

The Taiwanese market also supports a heavy trade in live animals. As many as 200 tigers are held in captivity for breeding purposes to supply Taiwan's market demand for tiger meat, blood, bones, organs and skins. These tiger "farms" inside Taiwan also serve as staging areas for the illegal importation and transport of live animals like leopards, bears and orangutans.
A 1991 publication Traditional Chinese Culture in Taiwan published and distributed to tourists by the Taiwanese government enthuses, "Visiting a Chinese pharmacy in the R.O.C. is much like being inside a miniature museum of science. Among the assortment of curiosities are bear's gall to relieve pain."


The gall bladders of bears are a staple in Chinese medicine. They are used as a cure for liver, heart, lung, stomach, skin and kidney ailments. Taiwanese brokers buy bear gall from all over the world; some Taiwanese pharmacies sell more than 100 galls a year. Increasing numbers of poached American black bears are being found with only their galls and paws removed. Alaskan grizzlies are especially desirable because of their large size.
To increase potency and raise the price, rhino horn, oxidized mercury and gazelle horn often are added to the gall. Mainland Chinese exporters claim that the Taiwanese are among the best customers for bear gall. The Taiwanese also covet other bear products, and are particularly fond of eating bear paw, a delicacy which is alleged to convey great strength. Claws, teeth and hides also are prized by dealers and consumers alike. All Asian bears are listed on CITES Appendix I. All other bears are listed on CITES Appendix I or II.


Although orangutans are not native to Taiwan, the illegal trade in orangutans has reached such epidemic proportions that Taiwan now has more orangutans per square mile than can be found in their native forests of Borneo and Sumatra. Because juvenile orangutans command from $6,000 to $15,000 on the black market, more than 1,000 of these increasingly rare primates have been smuggled into Taiwan for the pet trade in recent years. Scientists estimate that four to six young orangutans die for every juvenile orangutan that reaches its market destination alive. In addition, orangutan mothers are frequently shot in order to capture their young. Coupled with the severe destruction of their habitat, the demand for pet orangutans in Taiwan threatens the survival of the species. Today only some 10,000 orangutans survive in the wild. Orangutans are listed on CITES Appendix I.


The clouded leopard, Amur leopard, snow leopard and a number of small Asiatic cats all are smuggled into Taiwan - dead or alive. Young leopards are sold as pets and the remains of adults are used by pharmacists in prescriptions like those for tigers. Pelts, claws and teeth are bought by wealthy Taiwanese for use as coats, handbags and jewelry. Smaller felines, including the marbled cat, leopard cat and golden Asiatic cat, also are bought and sold by Taiwan's wildlife traders. All leopards are listed on Appendix I.


Researchers estimate that less than 1,000 pandas survive in the wild in fragmented populations. These animals are poached for their pelts, which may sell for more than $100,000 in Taiwan. Although tens of millions of dollars have been invested in conservation efforts for the panda, black market demand remains high, and cash rewards continue to encourage poaching. Pandas are listed on CITES Appendix I.


Over a million rhinos wandered throughout Africa at the turn of the century. Today, only about 7,000 survive. In less than a century, humans have destroyed more than 99 percent of the world's rhinoceros population. Why the precipitous decline? The answer, in a word, is Taiwan. While a number of rhino horns were traditionally used to make ceremonial dagger handles in the Middle East, today almost all rhino horn goes directly for use in Chinese medicine.

What you can do

The Taiwan government will continue to disregard the lucrative trade in endangered species until it costs too much to ignore. Here are three things you can do to help the Endangered Species Project force the Taiwanese government to stop the slaughter.
1. Don't buy goods made in Taiwan.

Look for the "Made in Taiwan" label. If you don't know where it was made, ask. Tell shop owners why you refuse to buy any goods from Taiwan and encourage them to do the same. Taiwan's dependence on U.S. markets means that American consumers can force Taiwan to clean up its act. Whatever else you do, boycott Taiwan! Let Taiwanese companies know what you think about Taiwan's wildlife trade. Acer (computers), Giant (bicycles), and Tatung Corporation (microwave ovens and televisions) are the three major companies to target. Write them to demand that Taiwan halt the slaughter of endangered species and to let them know that you'll be shopping with other companies until Taiwan stops the trade.

2. Tell President Clinton to impose sanctions.

Taiwan fears international trade and diplomatic sanctions. Please write to President Clinton and demand that the United States pressure the government of Taiwan to halt the illegal trade of endangered species by strictly enforcing its own laws and CITES regulations. Insist that the Interior Department certify Taiwan under the Pelly Amendment and that President Clinton impose trade sanctions against Taiwanese imports. Tell them that you support a suspension of trade against Taiwan and will not buy Taiwanese goods until these conditions are met. Let them know America will not subsidize this slaughter any longer.

3. Support the Endangered Species Project.

Over the past two years, Endangered Species Project investigators have traveled to Taiwan, China, Russia, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam, documenting the illegal black market trade in endangered species. Our field investigations provide up-to-date information to CITES, Congress and government bodies, and could be the deciding factor in securing sanctions against Taiwan and other countries trading in endangered species. In the months ahead we'll be taking our campaign against Taiwan to Washington and the European Parliament to enlist the support of legislators, other conservation groups and corporations in sanctioning Taiwan and forcing compliance with international wildlife treaties. We'll also be attempting to block the entry of Taiwan into the Global Accord on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) until Taiwan becomes a responsible member of the international conservation community. We rely on the contributions of people like you to support our campaigns. So please support the Endangered Species Project's work with a tax-deductible donation.

The Endangered Species Project

Goals of the campaign

Campaign Agenda