Endangered species used in medicine

The paragraph headings (animal names) have been removed from this article. Choose from the headings A-K the one which fits each paragraph (1-10). There is one extra heading which you do not need to use. Write your answers on a piece of paper.


  1. Musk Deer
  2. Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  3. Water Buffalo
  4. Grevy’s Zebra
  5. Tiger
  6. Sun Bear
  7. Giant Panda
  8. Asian Elephant
  9. Banteng
  10. Chinese Alligator
  11. Rhinoceros


(K) Rhinoceros

Poaching reached epidemic levels in the 20th century, nearly driving all five species into extinction. But in the 1990s, China removed the animal from its list of ingredients approved for manufacturing medicines—the horn was supposed to relieve fevers and lower blood pressure—and populations began to recover. Poaching, particularly of black and white varieties in South Africa, ramped up and the animals are threatened once again.

(C) Water Buffalo

This wild animal is a large bovine (type of cattle) native to Southeast Asia. Domestic varieties or hybrids may be all that remain, according to some estimates, or there could be a couple of hundred pure ones left or possibly thousands. Researchers do agree, however, that the species is endangered. But that hasn’t stopped people from hunting them in places like Cambodia.

(J) Chinese Alligator

This small, freshwater crocodilian species now numbers fewer than 200 in the wild, mostly restricted to a small reserve in the Anhui province of China, along the lower Yangtze River. Habitat destruction, particularly dam building, has devastated the population, but hunting has also taken a toll. The meat is promoted as a way to cure the common cold and to prevent cancer, and the organs are also said to have medicinal properties.

(H) Asian Elephant

These were once thought to be relatively immune to poaching—unlike their African relatives, only some males, instead of all adults, have ivory tusks—but that is not true. The animals are killed for their meat, hide, tusks and other body parts. In Myanmar, for example, small pieces of the foot are turned into a paste to treat hernias.

(A) Musk Deer

Seven species are found in Asia, and all are on the decline. Thousands have been killed for their musk pods, a gland that produces the musk that gives the animals their name and has been used in perfumes. The musk, a brown, waxy substance, can be extracted from live animals, but “musk gatherers,” who can get around $200 to $250 per gland from foreign traders, find it easier to kill the animal.

(F) Sun Bear

This is just one of several bear species killed for its gallbladder, which is used for treating everything from burns to asthma to cancer. Their population has declined by more than 30 percent in the past three decades due to hunting and loss of their forest habitat. Killing them is illegal throughout their home range in Southeast Asia, but these laws are rarely enforced.

(D) Grevy’s Zebra

It once roamed across East Africa, but its population dropped from 25,000 in the 1970s to about 2,500 today. Humans killed the animals for their distinctive skins and to eliminate competition for water between the animals and livestock. They can now be found only in northern Kenya and a few parts of Ethiopia.

(E) Tiger

While this member of the cat family originally lived across Asia, from Turkey to the eastern coast of Russia, its range has now dwindled to roughly a dozen countries in East and South Asia, and as few as 3,200 may be left in the wild. Their decline is the result of the use of their skins, bones, teeth and claws in traditional medicine.

(I) Banteng

The population of this animal, a species of cattle native to southeast Asia, is now estimated to be somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000. While land development and agriculture pose grave problems for the endangered species, poaching is a continued and direct threat, driven by the market for their horns. In 2003, they became the first endangered species to be successfully cloned.

(B) Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Although they can be found in environments ranging from the Caribbean Sea to the waters surrounding Indonesia, their numbers have dwindled to the point that they are now listed as critically endangered. Poachers hunt them for a number of reasons, including for their shells, which have been distributed worldwide as travel souvenirs and incorporated into jewellery and other decorative items and for their oil.


Stromberg, J. and Zielinski, S. (2011) ‘Ten threatened and endangered species used in traditional medicine’,, 19 October. Available at: (Accessed: 25 September 2013).