Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Perfume trade 'imperils musk deer'
Target: Natural musk is more valuable than gold
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
The World Wide Fund for Nature says some musk deer populations could be driven out of existence by the demands of the international perfume trade.
The populations of Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan are listed on Appendix 1 of CITES (the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which forbids all international trade.
All other musk deer populations are listed on Appendix 2, which allows limited trade.
A report by WWF-UK and Traffic (the wildlife monitoring programme of WWF and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) says the species is undergoing "a massive decline".
The report, entitled "On the Scent", says some populations are now seriously decreasing, and if the threats remain unchecked the deer could disappear altogether.
It says musk remains one of the most expensive natural products in the world, three to five times more valuable than gold at up to $45,000 a kilogram.
The raw musk is taken from the male animal's "pods", or scent glands, but the report says that from three to five deer are usually killed before the hunters can find a single male who will yield about 25 grams.
WWF-UK's international conservation officer, Stuart Chapman, says: "The snares set by poachers for musk deer kill indiscriminately".
"Consumers of perfumes have no way of knowing what they are buying, and manufacturers should come clean and clearly label their perfumes.
"In Europe alone, the amount of raw musk legally imported in the past two decades represents the loss of tens of thousands of wild musk deer, and imports seem to be increasing."
The report says Russian musk deer populations have fallen by 50% in the last ten years because of poaching and over-exploitation.
WWF wants the European Union and the perfume industry to suspend imports of wild musk from the Russian Federation until more research is carried out on the deer populations. It says substitutes could be developed.
It also wants all perfume products to be clearly labelled to show whether they use natural musk. The main exporters of raw musk from 1978 to 1996 were China, Mongolia, the Soviet Union, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.