Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 22478.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022478

• Conservation and Governance • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Market status and the sustainable utilization strategy of wild earthworm (earth dragon) for medicinal use

Jingjing Zhao1,*(), Haibin Jia2, Tien Ming Lee1,3,*()   

  1. 1 School of Life Sciences and State Key Laboratory of Biological Control, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275
    2 Tiandiyuntu Chinese Medicinal Materials (Guangzhou) Co. Ltd, Guangzhou 510308
    3 School of Ecology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510006
  • Received:2022-08-21 Accepted:2022-09-27 Online:2023-03-20 Published:2023-01-18
  • Contact: Jingjing Zhao,Tien Ming Lee


Aim: Earthworm (also known as earth dragon) is a commonly used animal traditional Chinese medicine resource. It has high medicinal value, particularly for treating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. In the recent decade, “electric shocking” methods using electric earthworm machines have been used to increase the harvesting yield of wild earthworms. While such a method can improve harvesting efficiency, it may be unsustainable, threatening wild earthworm populations and negatively affecting soil habitats. This paper aims to analyze the potential effect of “electric shocking” on the national earth dragon market.

Methods: We used the largest national dataset on market price (1998.2‒2022.7), the market supply (2004‒2021) and the market demand (2004‒2021) to analyze market characteristics and their relationships. To better understand the potential effect of “electric shocking” on the national earth dragon market, we used Bayesian structural time-series models to analyze the impact of “electric shocking” on supply quantity and market price.

Results: Our results showed that: (1) From 1998 to 2022, the price of earth dragons has been on the rise, with seasonal fluctuations, and the highest price attained was 175 yuan/kg; (2) The market value of earth dragons increased yearly, but the current price appeared to be below the commodity value, thus the market was in an unstable state; (3) Even after controlling for market demand, compared with the predicted results without the popularization of the “electric shocking” methods, the popularization of the “electric shocking” harvesting methods in 2013 had significantly increased the supply quantity of earth dragons, yet the market price had decreased significantly. The average supply has increased by 40% prior to 2013, however the market price has decreased by 44%.

Suggestions: We strongly recommend that the pharmaceutical management department does the following: (1) accelerating the establishment of a market monitoring and early warning mechanism for wild medicinal animal resources; (2) strengthening the rectification and standardization of the market regulations, and (3) integrating sustainability evaluation for the trade of wild animal medicine.

Key words: medicinal resources, price, supply and demand, conservation and utilization, sustainability