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Public Outcry Delays First Auction of Hunting Quotas

The country's first auction of hunting quotas for wildlife has been delayed due to public outcry over the inclusion of endangered species on the list.

"The auction will be held in the appropriate manner after we have solicited suggestions from the public," State Forestry Administration (SFA) spokesman Cao Qingyao said on Friday in Beijing. However, he would not give a date.

The auction was originally scheduled for Sunday in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province. Hunting quotas for 289 animals of 14 species from 25 international hunting ranges are to be sold to five government-authorized agencies.

Wang Wei, deputy director of wildlife protection at the SFA, said the planned auction would increase transparency and efficiency in the hunting industry.

But netizens were outraged when they discovered the quota list included animals on the State endangered species list such as the Tibetan antelope.

"The public response is beyond our expectations," said Wang. "We are trying to gain more understanding and clear up doubts."

Restricted hunting that abides by Chinese law and follows international practice would help protect wildlife and contribute to the local economy, Wang said.

Cao Liang, director of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, said that of the small number of endangered animals included in the quota, some are over-bred and should no longer be included on the list.

Over the past decades, the government has strengthened its efforts on wildlife conservation. As a result, the growing population of some animals has become a burden on the local ecological system, according to Cao.

He said hunters would only target old male animals, which would not affect the species in the long term.

But animal conservation organizations see the move as misleading.

"The public may think the government is loosening wildlife protection," said He Yong, a spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "It could encourage poaching."

He added that China's wildlife numbers could not sustain unrestricted hunting.

Dermot O'Gorman, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund China, said hunting can be a solution to manage wildlife, but should not be the first option.

"Even if the government allows hunting, it has to be carried out under a scientific basis and be properly managed," O'Gorman said.

It needs to be part of the overall conservation strategy for a particular species, and hunting quotas for individual species and hunting activities must be carefully monitored, he added.

China has allowed trophy hunting by international hunters since 1985. The domestic market remains less developed due to high costs and a ban on guns.

By the end of last year about 1,101 international hunters had visited China, bringing in revenue of more than US$36.39 million as they hunted 1,347 wild animals.

Local forestry departments and hunting parks use the money from hunting for the protection of wildlife, officials said.

(China Daily August 12, 2006)

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