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Tougher Wildlife Protection Law Under way

China plans to toughen its wildlife protection laws to preserve wild animal species and improve their care, State Forestry Administration officials say.


Investigative work and the drafting of new legal rules are being completed for amending current laws, which first came into force in 1989, said Wang Weisheng, director of Division of Wildlife Management under Department of Wild Fauna and Flora Conservation.


But Wang, speaking during an interview with China Daily, did not provide an exact date for the law to be changed. He said complicated details still must be worked out before the law can fully revised.


The adjustments will likely focus on management of protected wildlife, the definition of ownership of wildlife and management of habitats beyond nature reserves, according to Zhang Dehui, vice-director in Wang's department.


According to current law, the State exercises a two-grade management system for key protected wild animals.


So-called "first grade" animals are handled by State administrative departments while those at the "second grade" level are protected by provincial, municipal and autonomous region governments.


"The revised law might give up the two-grade management system and transform protection into a single, overall management plan," said Zhang.


Existing wildlife protection law stipulates that wild animal resources are owned by the State. Yet since an increasing number of private enterprises are involving themselves in domesticating and breeding animals, specific ownership rules should be spelled out in understandable legal terms, Zhang explained.


In addition, there are no definite stipulations in current law on the management of animals' habitats or their suitability for establishing nature reserves. New law will be revised to highlight the protection of animals in such areas, Zhang said.


The outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) last year indicated a need for modifying wildlife protection laws to add a ban on eating wild animals. That is because the deadly virus is thought to have come from wild civet cats in South China's Guangdong Province.


Artificial means - such as domestication and breeding programs - have been used to enlarge populations of rare and endangered species, according to Wang.


"Some of the domesticated and bred animals will be reintroduced into the wild when their populations are large enough," Wang said.


In addition, forestry department staffers have been stepping up efforts to crack down on poaching and the illegal trading of protected wild animals and products from them such as tiger bones and rhino horns, Wang said.


"The number of such cases are declining on a year-on-year basis," he added.


However, some problems have surfaced during the efforts to protect wildlife, according to Zhang.


"Both global climate change and the spreading of humans into the living environments of animals have threatened habitats of various species," Zhang said.


To make matters worse, local governments hesitate to inject money into protection projects and some even allow engineers to invade nature reserves for the sake of economic development projects, Zhang said.


To seek more input into the conservation of wildlife, the forestry ministry is encouraging the private economy to join hands in such projects with the precondition of governmental supervision, Zhang said.


Zhang stressed that qualifications will be checked out before such private business endeavors are allowed to come in.


(China Daily June 7, 2004)


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