Guangdong's appetite for exotic dishes makes
it an ideal market for wild animal smugglers, experts said.
About 2.8 percent of Chinese people regularly eat wild animals.
In Guangdong, that figure climbs to 4.1 percent, according to a
survey by the China Association of Wild Animal Protection.
Guangdong residents often eat snakes, tortoises and bears' paws.
Few statistics are available on how many wild animals are eaten in
Guangdong every year, but the most recent case of wild animal
smuggling helps create a rough picture of how big the market is,
officials at the Guangdong wild animals and plants protection
Police seized more than 13,000 kilograms of smuggled wild
animals in Yangjiang, Guangdong, last week
Locals said border police in Yangjiang intercepted a wooden ship
full of wild animals that was anchored off the coast last
On board, they found more than 5,000 rare animals kept in about
200 wooden cages.
Among the animals were 2,720 monitor lizards, which are under
first-class national protection; 30 pangolins, which are under
second-class national protection; 44 leatherback turtles, which are
also under national-level protection; 2,655 rare tortoises, which
are under province-level protection; and 21 bears' paws.
It was the biggest wild animal smuggling case in at least a
decade, said a source with Guangdong Customs.
"We did not find anybody on the ship. We only found a lot of wooden
cases and a strong fishy smell that day," said Huang Xiaohong, the
chief of Yangjiang frontier defense team.
Police said the ship did not have a name or a license. Nor did
it list a port of registry.
This has made the task of identifying the smugglers very
difficult, Huang said.
The captive wild animals have been sent to Guangzhou and are now
under the protection of the Guangdong wild animals and plants
"We will feed the live animals until the case ends and then
release them back into the wild," Li Tao, director of the center's
information department, told China Daily.
The center will also freeze the bears' paws, and then cremate
them after the case is completed, Li said.
Guangdong's customs bureau is investigating the case. However,
officials have so far declined to reveal any specific information,
saying that they want to protect the evidence.
According to a report in the local Guangzhou Daily, Yangjiang
border police found a copy of the Nanyang Siang Pau, a
Malaysian newspaper, on board the ship.
Of the major illegal international businesses plaguing the area,
animal smuggling is second only to drug smuggling in terms of
scale. The profits are enormous because many of the people who sell
such animals know nothing about the animals' endangered status.
They sell them to smugglers for next to nothing.
To serve as a positive example, almost all of Guangdong's
high-ranking government officials have refused to eat wild animals,
Li Tao said.
(China Daily May 30, 2007)