HANOI, Vietnam — A local conservation group voiced opposition Friday to the planned sale of tiger paste by Vietnamese authorities, amid warnings by the international community that the animal's survival is in serious jeopardy.
Officials in Vietnam's northern Thanh Hoa province agreed last month to organize a public auction of 6 pounds (2.8 kilograms) of tiger paste seized from traffickers. An auction date has not been set.
Vietnam bans the hunting or trade of wild animals and their products, but the Ministry of Agriculture has issued a directive allowing its use in making medicines.
In Vietnam, tiger bones are used to make expensive traditional medicines purported to cure many illnesses. Two pounds (1 kilogram) of tiger paste could be sold for $10,000 on the black market.
Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, deputy director of Hanoi-based Education for Nature Vietnam, said Thanh Hoa authorities had used a "loophole" in the law to allow the sale of the tiger paste.
"The auctions go against conservation efforts," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview, adding the move has "helped legitimize the trade of the animal."
"We had recommended that the paste be destroyed to send a clear message to the public that the authorities do not encourage the consumption of wild animals' products," she said.
Wildlife experts warned at a summit last month in St. Petersburg, Russia, that wild tigers could become extinct in 12 years if countries where they still roam fail to take quick action to protect their habitats and step up the fight against poaching.
The World Wildlife Fund and other experts say only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild – a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.
The summit approved a wide-ranging program with the goal of doubling the world's tiger population in the wild by 2022. The program is backed by the governments of the 13 countries that still have tiger populations, including Vietnam.
Several people have been arrested in the last few months in the communist country for their involvement in the trade of wild tigers.