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Viagra Saves Endangered Species

The success of Viagra has drastically reduced the demand for the body parts of wild animals that are used in traditional cures for impotence, especially in Asia. Since the drug was introduced in 1998, worldwide trade in some rare and endangered species has fallen more than 70%. Frank von Hippel says, "Viagra is cheaper than many animal products and its action is pronounced, immediate and effective." He studied three illegally hunted animals: Alaskan reindeer, hooded seals and harp seals.

Sales of reindeer antlers fell by 72% from $700,000 in 1997 to $200,000 in 1998. The number of seal penises being traded fell from around 40,000 in 1996 to 20,000 in 1998, and the price dropped from $100 to $15 each by 1999.

Von Hippel hopes Viagra becomes cheaper in Africa, and says, "People there cannot afford Viagra, but offering free impotence drugs could go a long way to reduce the poaching of wild species."

But David Cowdry of the World Wildlife Fund says, "There is an elitism associated with these medicines and we are fighting against thousands of years of tradition."

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