Thirteen people in northwest China have been sent to prison after they were found guilty of illegally buying and selling thousands of state-protected wild animals in the largest wild animal trade case the country has seen.
Ma Weihu, a native of northwest China's Gansu Province, received a 14-year sentence and a fine of 100,000 yuan (US$12,800) for illegally buying about 900 owls, a Grade-II state protected animal, from Ningxia and selling them to restaurants in southern Guangdong Province, according to the Qindu District People's Court in Xianyang City, Shaanxi Province.
Twelve others were handed jail terms ranging from five to thirteen years with varying fines.
They bought more than 4,000 owls in total, mainly in Ningxia, and sold the birds to Guangdong between August 2005 and April 2006.
Police rescued 930 owls during the investigation of the case.
(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2007)