Shark fin soup is a popular item in Chinese cuisine that is sometimes made with meat from protected species of sharks. Image: chee.hong

Think of a hotspot for the buying and selling of rare and endangered species and China probably comes to mind. Wildlife traffickers in the country caught dealing in everything from pangolins to tiger bones frequently get off with just a light sentence. But change is afoot. With the wildlife trade ranking amongst the top five most profitable illegal industries, the Chinese government has finally decided that enough is enough.

Last week, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed an interpretation of the Criminal Law that mandates jail sentences for eating and buying products made from 420 wildlife species considered rare or endangered, including Asiatic black bear, pangolin, golden monkeys and giant panda.

Lang Sheng, Deputy Head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, told conservation organisation WildAid that "...buyers are a major motivator of large-scale illegal hunting."

With its rapid economic growth and large population, China has seen a big jump in the number of people who can afford wildlife products, coming from within China and beyond. This increase in consumption is having significant impacts on many wildlife species.

“We believe China can and will truly be a global leader in conservation. Stopping the buying of endangered wildlife products will help conserve many wildlife species,” said WildAid Executive Director Peter Knights. 

“President Xi’s administration has stated its intent to increase environmental protection,” Knights added. “Last year they banned shark fin from all state banquets. In January they publicly crushed seized ivory. State media supported the world’s largest demand reduction campaign for wildlife developed in partnership with WildAid and led by Yao Ming and Jackie Chan. This is another forceful step in wildlife protection that will impact animals globally.”

Source: WildAid
Header Image: Steve Schroeder