WITH the world's rhinoceros and tiger populations facing annihilation, the United States on Sept. 7 condemned China and Taiwan for illegal trading in rhino horn and tiger bones.
``The United States cannot stand by while the world's remaining wild tigers and rhinos slip into extinction as a result of illegal trade,'' said US Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
Mr. Babbitt's statement permits President Clinton to impose economic sanctions, but his office said Babbitt requested that sanctions be deferred pending steps by Taiwan and China to stamp out the illegal trade. Babbitt offered US assistance to help China and Taiwan end the illegal trade.
Rhino horn and tiger bone are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and the high prices paid for them on the black market in the Far East has spurred poachers to nearly decimate both species.
The US government estimates that only 10,000 wild rhinoceros survive, a fall of 90 percent over 20 years. Fewer than 5,000 tigers are believed alive in the wild, a decline of 95 percent since the turn of the century.
Babbitt was in Brussels to attend a meeting of a 120-nation UN organization that governs trade in endangered wildlife.