Embargoed for release: Tuesday, 6 July 1999, 09:00 am GMT

Frankfurt, Germany — The high demand for natural musk as an ingredient in medicines and perfumes is endangering wild populations of musk deer, according to a new report released today by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Musk derives from male musk deer and is one of the most expensive natural products with a retail value three to five times higher than that for gold.

Musk deer live in 13 countries in Asia and in the eastern parts of Russia and they are declining in practically all countries where they occur. In Russia, experts believe the number of musk deer has plummeted by around 50 per cent in the past 10 years because of over-hunting to meet international demand for natural musk.

The new report, On the Scent: Conserving Musk Deer – The Uses of Musk and Europe’s Role in its Trade by TRAFFIC Europe, documents how 52 countries participate in the trade. Russia acts as a major world supplier of raw musk, while European countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland are significant importers. Germany and Switzerland are suppliers of raw musk mainly from the former Soviet Union and Russia to Hong Kong, South Korea and other destinations.

“Immediate action is needed to reduce the use of natural musk from wild deer by increasing consumer awareness about conservation concerns and increasing the use of alternatives,” said Volker Homes, the author of the report based at TRAFFIC Europe-Germany. “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 appear to be increasing.”

Concerned about the evidence of over-exploitation, including information provided by TRAFFIC, the countries of the European Union are in the process of suspending imports of wild musk deer products from Russia until stronger safeguards are in place.

Musk secreted from the scent pods of male musk deer has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicines in Asia. Today, there are more than 300 pharmaceutical preparations containing musk in traditional East Asian medicine, used to treat a variety of ailments relating to the heart, nerves and breathing. This study also found a limited trade in natural musk for homeopathic medicine in Europe.

In Europe, Asian medicines claiming to contain musk have been seized in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and UK as they lacked permits needed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Illicit trade has also occurred in raw musk in Russia, and in France for the perfume industry.

Natural musk is prized for the intensity and endurance of its aroma and has historically been used as an ingredient in some of the world’s most classic and expensive perfumes. The use of synthetic musk is now increasingly common in perfumes and other cosmetics although some perfumeries continue to use traditional recipes that contain genuine natural musk.

For further information, Volker Homes and Roland Melisch at TRAFFIC Europe-Germany, tel. +49 170 34 13 096, +49 171 544 01 44 (after 01:00 pm GMT contact +49 69 79144-183, +49 69 79144-180) or contact Maija Sirola at TRAFFIC International*, tel. +44 (0)1223 277427.

Notes to editors:
* Colour slides are available of musk deer and musk deer pods
* All musk deer products have been subject to control under CITES since 1979. Some populations and their parts and derivatives are banned from international trade while others require permits.

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