Italy has netted smugglers of illicit wildlife products by using a guide to help recognize traditional Asian medicine, a U.N. conference heard Tuesday.
The guide, drawn up by British customs and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, resulted in the seizure of 9,000 illegal medicinal products this year in six Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, under an investigation dubbed “Operation Marco Polo.”
“We will continue toward removing the illegal aspects of the trade in Italy and aim to develop a national guide in Italian,” said Aldo Cosentino, the head of the Italian delegation to a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok.
Enforcement has emerged as a key issue at the 13th meeting of CITES, which regulates global trade in wild flora and fauna.
Detecting dried seeds, herbs or traditional medicines that contain regulated or banned parts of plants or animals is no easy task to the untrained eye.
CITES, TRAFFIC, British customs and WWF International have joined forces to update the guide, entitled “Traditional Asian Medicine Identification Guide for Law Enforcers.”
Booming demand in Asia, especially China, for traditional medicines derived from body parts is seen as a major reason for the poaching of protected species, including rhinos and tigers.
Parts of these animals are highly prized and are used as aphrodisiacs and other cure-alls.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.