Tiger Bone 'Glue' and Bear Bile Injections Among Remedies Falsely Claiming to Prevent or Treat COVID-19, Watchdog Says

Wildlife traders are falsely claiming products made from endangered animals, including tigers and rhinos, can be used against COVID-19, according to an environmental advocacy group.

The fraudsters' attempts come despite the fact there are no specific medicines available to prevent or treat COVID-19, which has killed over 103,000 people in more than 1.7 million known cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 378,800 people have recovered from the disease.

On Friday, Debbie Banks, tiger and wildlife crime campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency, wrote that the NGO believes there are "potentially more than 100 tiger keepers and butchers in Vietnam" who raise cubs. The animals, trafficked from breeders in nearby Thailand and Laos, are killed and turned into a glue-like substance which is used as a tonic consumed in tea or wine.

Such products are sold in Vietnam and China, according to Banks.

"The teeth, claws and skins are sold as luxury ornamental and decorative items. Some of these criminals also offer bear gall bladder, pangolin scales and rhino horn for sale," she said.

One such example brought to light by the organization saw an unidentified Vietnamese man using social media to sell his homemade tiger bone "glue" which he falsely claimed prevents COVID-19.

The man posted images and "harrowing video footage of a tiger being butchered and the bones being boiled down," Banks said.

The salesman wrote: "From the haunting pandemic, we recognize the two most important things in life, family and health. Invest in health while you can! Money will not buy health, but with money, health will certainly improve."

Last month, the Environmental Investigation Agency reported China's government had claimed traditional medicines could treat COVID-19. Scientists around the world, including in China where the pandemic started, are working tirelessly to create a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19.

However, according to the NGO, China's National Health Commission suggested bear bile injections, known as Tan Re Qing, be given to "severe" and "critical" COVID-19 patients.

And in February, over a month before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, the Environmental Investigation Agency highlighted cases of WeChat users in China and Laos selling a traditional Chinese medicine product containing rhino horn and musk.

Sold in medicine balls, Angong Niuhuang Wan is marketed as a method for reducing fever. A separate company based in China was meanwhile promoting products in Laos containing derivatives of animals including tiger, elephants, bear, and rhino.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states on its website that while there are no treatments for COVID-19, those who catch the coronavirus "should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care.

"Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
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A volunteer holds a placard to raise awareness about the coronavirus in Chennai, India, on April 8, 2020. ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images