Identifying the problem: A new guide to help law enforcers check trade in traditional Asian medicines

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not an official document.


Identifying the problem: A new guide to help law enforcers check trade
in traditional Asian medicines

Santiago de Chile, 13 November 2002 - The CITES Secretariat, TRAFFIC, and Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise in the United Kingdom (HMCE) launched today the Traditional Asian Medicine Identification Guide for Law Enforcers to help law enforcers tackle problems such as inspecting shipments. At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Santiago, the CITES Secretariat is also announcing additional funding support for the continued updating of the information contained in the Guide. The first update will be available in approximately 18 months, prior to CITES COP13.

“Although the guide cannot replace the need for an expert in every case, it certainly can assist in flagging potential problem shipments that may need more detailed inspection and allow other shipments to be cleared more quickly,” said Crawford Allan, one of the authors and TRAFFIC’s Global Enforcement Co-Ordinator.

Enforcement Officers inspecting shipments or domestic sales have an unenviable task when checking for CITES-listed components. Dried seeds, herbs and packets of traditional medicines may include parts and derivatives of species regulated or prohibited in trade. Typically these include tiger bone, rhino horn, bear bile or musk. How enforcers determine whether these are regulated items that may require CITES papers remains a perennial challenge.

“I hope this guide will help enforcers learn some identification skills and make the inspection process easier,” said Charles Mackay, head of HM Customs and Excise CITES Team at Heathrow Airport. “Ultimately, this will improve detection of illegal shipments containing endangered species utilised in traditional Asian medicines.”

With the Traditional Asian Medicine Identification Guide for Law Enforcers, officers now have access to 430 full colour images of Traditional Asian medicines that claim to contain species that are controlled in international trade. Available in searchable CD-ROM and print copies, each medicine ‘profile’ includes a written description explaining the alleged contents of the medicine. The medicines are indexed by key identifiers that are easy to recognise by the law enforcers. There is also an explanation of how to ‘read’ the packaging and identify controlled species from the ingredients list.

In hard-copy form, the guide is loose-leaf (170 pages) – allowing for easier revision, addition of the enforcer’s own notes, and photocopying for wider and cheaper distribution. The main audience for the guide is law enforcers based in countries outside of Asia who may have to deal with inspecting imports or domestic sale of traditional Asian medicines. The guide is available only in English, however the format allows for easy translation into other languages for greater utility.

UK Environment Minister, Elliott Morley will launch the CD-guide at a reception by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in Santiago today. The Chief of the Capacity Building Unit of the CITES Secretariat Stephen Nash noted: “Identification manuals like this are vital in efforts to support the tremendous challenges law enforcers working on wildlife trade are up against. We look forward to continuing working together with the partners in order to provide an update of the current manual in the near future.”


There will be a global co-operative initiative to update the Guide, and CITES is calling upon enforcement officers or anyone with copies of packaged medicines containing CITES-listed species to send them for inclusion in a revised version of the manual to:

Bron Madson
Tel: 56-2-6337256 (in Santiago, Chile)

Charles Mackay, Senior Officer, CITES Team
56-9-6057238 (cell phone in Santiago, Chile)

Building 553
Shoreham Road East
Heathrow Airport
London TW6 3RD

The CDs are available free of charge for law enforcers upon request from the CITES Secretariat:

Ger van Vliet
Capacity Building Unit
CITES Secretariat
International Environment House
Chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Geneva
Tel: (+4122) 917-8139/40
Fax: (+4122) 797-3417

The Guide was generously supported by WWF-UK, the UK Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime and Taiwan Council of Agriculture.

For further information, please contact:

Maija Sirola, Communications Co-Ordinator, tel. 9 605 6655 (in Santiago, Chile)
Crawford Allan, Global Enforcement Co-Ordinator, tel. 9 605 6800 (in Santiago, Chile)
HM Customs and Excise, Charles Mackay
CITES Secretariat, tel. 09-443-4045.

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