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China steps up wildlife protection training
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Improper management leads to loss of biodiversity

Most wild animals smuggled from Yunnan to domestic markets are from Myanmar.

"Despite strengthening crackdowns, criminals still try by every possible means to smuggle wild animals to domestic markets through shortcuts in border areas," said an official from the Yunnan Forestry Police Station.

The official said that among numerous factors leading to rampant smuggling, one of the most important is consumption.

"Lots of hotels and restaurants in border areas provide dishes of wild animals," he said. "Some restaurants even sell the liquor made from wild animals."

Some star-level hotels in Guangdong and Hainan provinces also sell wild animals at high prices. A 5 kilogram pangolin bought for about 100 yuan in Myanmar sells for about 600 yuan a kilogram in the Chinese hinterland. The price can go as high as 1,200 yuan per kilogram during the Spring Festival.

Currently China doesn't have any clear legal stipulation on the lawful responsibility for the consumption of wild animals, and wild animal consumption is only partly covered by ethical and moral principles.

Xu Hongfa, vice chairman of the China Zoological Society, said forestry, police, environmental, industrial and commercial departments usually hand out comparatively low punishment to hotels and restaurants for violations because of the gaps in legislation.

"Compared with the high profits, the punishment is only an added cost to the hotel and restaurants that is passed on to the consumers," said Xu.

He said most confiscated wild animals are sent to local wild animal collecting stations that aim to better protect them. But most stations have no guaranteed funding source for normal operations and have to find ways to increase their income to survive. Some stations "allocate" wild animals to other places of the country for payment. Instead of protecting wild animals, they promote their trade.

"Improper management has also led to the decrease in biodiversity and severe environmental problems," Xu said.

Raising and breeding the wild animals that enter the country without any scientific documentation and then releasing them into domestic nature reserves is very dangerous, he said.

"For example, snakes from various places released into local areas are not suitable at all," Xu said. "It will affect the population of local species and the protection of local biodiversity."

Legislation on wild animal and plant protection lags behind

Jiang Zhigang, a researcher with the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the fact the legislation on wildlife protection lags behind is the basic reason for the various problems.

"Since 1989, when the country implemented the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, a series of regulations and documents related to wildlife and plant protection have also been issued and carried out," Jiang said.

But the illegal trade on wildlife and plants has changed a great deal in recent years, while laws and regulations have seen few revisions. "The current laws can't produce the necessary deterrent effect," Jiang said.

Jiang noted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora stipulates that member countries should establish their wildlife and plant trade on the basis of sustainable use of resources.

"A good understanding of the population of wild species and their living conditions is the basic guarantee for the implementation of effective protection," he said.

"But China still doesn't have a good grasp of its wildlife and plant resources and trade volume. It hasn't conducted any effective supervision and control of border trade on wildlife and plants, which has severely affected the making of protective and managerial polices."

(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong June 16, 2009)

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