“Authorities in China recently
launched a crackdown on Web sites that openly trade in animal products made from threatened species, experts say.
The move follows pressure from two international wildlife advocacy groups, which found thousands of items made from protected species for sale on major Chinese Internet auction sites in 2007………
IFAW’s Gabriel noted that the two most popular wildlife products traded online in China
are elephant ivory and items made from tiger bone.
Ivory products include decorative and religious-themed carved figurines, chopsticks, and jewelry. They are sold among collectors, who are mostly white-collar and well educated, Gabriel said.
Tiger bone, which has been banned in China for the past 15 years, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat rheumatism.
Some manufacturers still produce tiger-bone wine and claim that it has magical powers and benefits for the skin.
The market for tiger-bone products generally consists of lower-income people in rural areas who shop at local vendors, though a small market for tiger-bone products exists online, Gabriel noted.
Rhino horn, tortoise shell, and antelope horn are also banned from being traded online.
One of the key challenges to policing online trade in illegal products, the conservationists note, is Chinese vendors’ ability to tweak the language to manipulate descriptions of their products.
"In other languages it might be difficult, but Chinese is tonal, and if you change the tone it could be a different word," Gabriel said.”
National Geographic News 29 Feb 08