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Online wild animal trade targeted
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Chinese animal protection authorities have joined with international organizations to target on-line trade involving wild animals, government sources said on Wednesday.

Meng Xianlin, deputy director of the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office, which is associated with the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said the office has acted upon reports from international organs and launched a campaign against illegal wild animal trade via the Internet.

Between February and December last year, staff of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) discovered 1,973 incidents of wild animal and product trade online. This included more than 30 kinds of endangered animals listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The items ranged from wild tiger bone wine, tiger whiskers, rhino horns to live slow lorises, a furry primate mostly found in southeast Asia.

Acting upon the reports, the office cooperated with public security and forestry departments in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, where most of the trades information was uncovered, in efforts against the trade. More than 80 percent of the information was deleted, while several websites were closed and further investigations were continuing, according to an IFAW statement.

Meng said details of the campaign have been forwarded to the CITES secretariat, along with suggestions to mobilize all countries to collaborate in cracking down on the online trade. "The Chinese government will continue to work with international organs and share their experience in animal protection," he added.

According to the website of the forestry department in the eastern Zhejiang Province, a seminar was convened in January at the provincial capital Hangzhou. It was attended by officials from the SFA, the Ministry of Public Security and delegates from Taobao, Tencent, Ebay, Alibaba, some of the top on-line auction sites.

"It's encouraging that the websites have professed their willingness to increase their monitoring. But we still face great challenges as trade via the Internet is more difficult to supervise and at the same time, easier to reach potential buyers," said the IFAW's Grace Gabriel.

When entering "tiger bone" on Ebay on Wednesday several search results appeared offering wines made from the skeletal remains. A bottle of such wine, which the seller claims was made from a Siberian tiger found dead in 1992 on the Wusuli river in northeast China, was on offer at 238 yuan (about US$33).

"We need the public to report the violations and to increase law enforcement and supervision," Gabriel said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2008)

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