China's first-ever auction of licenses for hunting wild animals, scheduled for Sunday, has triggered controversies after a Beijing newspaper released the news Wednesday.
The Beijing Youth Daily said in its Wednesday edition that foreigners would be allowed to hunt wild animals like yak when they become successful bidders at the auction to take place in Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan Province.
The planned auction, however, was criticized by some angry Chinese netizens as a profit-driven move that would have a fatal impact on wild life conservation in China, where the situation is not encouraging.
An official with the State Forestry Administration (SFA), organizer of the auction and China's watchdog for wild life, defended the move on Thursday, saying that wild animals such as wolf, red deer and yak among the auction hunts are not endangered species and appropriately-managed hunting is helpful for their protection.
Chinese government has strengthened wild life conservation over the past decades and the population of some wild animals has been increasing so quickly that they have become a burden on the local ecological system, Wang Weisheng, an official with SFA's wildlife and plants protection department, told Xinhua.
Wang also confirmed that foreigners will be allowed to hunt in eight western areas including Sichuan, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Gansu and Xinjiang , but the exact species and quotes are not decided yet.
Once a foreigner wins a hunting license, the hunter will pay 200 U.S. dollars for a wolf, 6,000 dollars for a red deer, and 10,000 U.S. dollars for an argali, or wild Asiatic sheep with big horns.
"The hunting quotas we set for each species this time are quite limited and only the old ones are allowed to be killed, so as to ensure the trophy hunting would not have a negative impact on the wild life population," said Wang.
"What's more, the money from the auction will be used for protection of endangered species," he said.
Wang's comments won support from the forestry authorities in Sichuan, which have received a rising number of reports on wild animals, especially vegetarian ones, intruding local villages and destroying crops.
Take takins for instance. The rising population of the ruminant mammal with backward-pointing horns and a shaggy coat, which was put under national protection in the 1960s and has been listed in the auction hunts, have even threatened the living of wild giant pandas, said Wang Hongjia, head of the Sichuan provincial station for wildlife resources survey and administration.
"The two species live in the same mountainous area and we've found takins are obviously in a stronger position in habitat and food competition," said Wang.
"Even though, hunting for takins would be allowed only in designated areas and when the animals are not in their oestrum or breeding period," said Wang.
(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2006)