Your TCM cooling water is killing off a critically endangered species

Photo: Saiga Conservation Alliance

Most Chinese kids would remember their parents urging them to drink a bottle of ‘cooling water’ to help with ‘heatiness’, and Saiga cooling water is one of those drinks that supposedly help.

Saiga horns are commonly known as ling yang, and they come from the critically endangered Saiga antelope. There are an estimated 123,450-124,200 left in the wild.

Photo: Wikipedia

The antelope has been around since the Ice Age, living alongside mammoths and saber-toothed cats. As only the male antelopes have horns, selective hunting of male saiga has distorted the sex ratio, causing a collapse of the reproduction rate in the wild.

Despite the species being critically endangered, it is only listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that traders can trade the antelope horns in Singapore as long as they have a permit.

Singapore is a major consumer hub of TCM medicine, and one in five Singaporeans consume products made from the Saiga antelope. According to a 2017 survey, 80% of the respondents did not even know that the species was criticially endangered.

What makes this worrying is that these products are still highly accessible and in high demand as there is not much awareness of the consequences that come with consumption.

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