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TRAFFIC – Overview

The world's wildlife resources are important to all people, providing us with food, medicines, clothing and other products. Many of the natural products used in the developed world are actually derived from animals and plants in the wild - whether it is fish or caviar served in a restaurant, drugs derived from medicinal plants or furniture made from timber extracted from the rainforest. Live exotic animals are popular companions and also kept for display, while live plants from the wild adorn homes and gardens around the world.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is working together with WWF to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. Founded in 1976, TRAFFIC assists in the implementation of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which bans international commercial trade of species threatened with extinction.

A Strategic Approach

TRAFFIC’s approach in China is based on the importance of systematic monitoring of wildlife trade as a way to provide an 'early warning' for emerging conservation issues. Through regular market surveys, TRAFFIC is able to alert government officials and other stakeholders when certain species such as the yew tree (Taxus) or musk deer are threatened. These early warnings ensure that sustainable, long-term solutions can be implemented to protect these wild species.

A central focus of TRAFFIC’s work in China is the protection of species used for traditional medicines. TRAFFIC works in close collaboration with the Chinese government, the traditional Chinese medicine industry, academic institutions and numerous other organizations to ensure the protection of wild plants and animals used in traditional Chinese medicines. Together we are working to promote sustainable use in the traditional medicine industry, and to stop the illegal trade of endangered species used as traditional medicines, such as tigers and rhinoceros.

Early Warning

The global trade in wildlife is big business. Strict monitoring and management of the market is needed to keep threatened species safe. In partnership with academic institutions and other conservation organizations, TRAFFIC has begun to build an 'early warning system' for China. This will alert the public and decision-makers to problems as they arise, allowing for better planning for sustainable use, and China’s law enforcers to stop illegal trade.
For example, with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, we are currently working for the conservation of the yew tree (Taxus), an important medicinal ingredient. By documenting current threats and providing conservation information to relevant authorities, we help strengthen conservation action by local governments and communities.

Flagship Species

Flagship species such as tigers and elephants are crucial to healthy eco-systems. Yet these species are critically endangered, with hunting for trade a primary threat. With support from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, TRAFFIC has joined with the China CITES Management Authority to develop training materials on the globally used Elephant Trade Information System. We are also assisting with the training of Customs Agency staff on its use. Another example of TRAFFIC’s work on flagship species comes from our trade investigations to understand and stop the illegal trade in tigers and tiger products, conducted in partnership with WWF and Save the Tiger Fund.

Resource Security and Wildlife Trade

Resource security means to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. This is a central focus of TRAFFIC in China, and includes work on sustainable use in key resource sectors, including the forestry sector and the traditional medicine industry.

TRAFFIC is promoting resource security in China through a number of initiatives. In 2003, for example, TRAFFIC East Asia and China’s CITES Scientific Authority formed the Traditional Medicines Advisory Group. This group is composed of a diverse range of China’s traditional medicine community. It is a continuing, high-level forum that discusses key issues related to conservation and sustainability in traditional medicine. The proceedings of early meetings of the Traditional Medicine Advisory Group have recently been published as Conservation and Sustainable Use of China's Medicinal Resources - an invaluable text for conservationists, government officials, academic professionals, and traditional medicine practitioners.

TRAFFIC is also leading an editorial committee, composed of professors from several traditional medicine universities, to write a new textbook for students of traditional Chinese medicine. The textbook focuses on conservation and sustainable use of China's endangered and rare medical resources. TRAFFIC has also worked with the China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Endangered Species Scientific Commission on workshops for certification and labeling of wildlife products.

TRAFFIC’s work on resource security in China also extends into the forestry and fisheries sectors. TRAFFIC is assisting the Global Forest Trade Network with an analysis of legality in the timber trade, for example, and has previously worked on the issues of shark imports and shark fisheries. TRAFFIC is committed to work for sustainable use of wild plants and animals throughout China’s growing economy.

Hotspots – China’s growing impact on Asian biodiversity

China’s wildlife trade is significant not only within China but across its borders, having a big impact on the wildlife of neighboring countries. Therefore, the effective control of China’s wildlife trade increasingly relies on collaboration between China and its neighbors. TRAFFIC and the China CITES Management Authority regularly support high-level meetings and joint enforcement actions between China and countries throughout Asia, including Vietnam, Russia, and India. This is done in partnership with government agencies across the globe, including the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United States Bureau of International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.


For further information about TRAFFIC East Asia - China Program,

please visit TRAFFIC website

or contact Ms. Li Chenyang at