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Tighter Controls Urged for Illegal Wildlife Trade

The Ministry of Public Security has urged local police to tighten controls on the hunting, smuggling and sale of wild animals to curb the growing illegal trade in wildlife.

"With the attraction of high profits, crimes involving the destruction of wildlife resources have been on the rise in recent years," Vice-Minister of Public Security Bai Jingfu said at a meeting over the weekend.

Ministry figures released on Saturday showed that from January to October this year, police handled 172,471 cases involving the destruction of wildlife and forest resources, up 2.7 percent year-on-year.

Of these, 10,818 were criminal cases - a sharp increase of 11.5 percent over the same period last year. About 1.5 million wild animals had been rescued from poachers.

Among the five major cases exposed by the ministry, the largest occurred in May in Yangxi County, in Guangdong Province, where police seized more than 13,000 kilograms of smuggled wild animals and animal parts.

These included 5,371 monitor lizards, which are under first-class national protection; 30 pangolins, which are under second-class national protection; 3,283 rare tortoises and 21 bears' paws.

It was the biggest wild animal smuggling case in at least a decade in Guangdong, local customs said. At least nine suspects have been detained.

Another four cases occurred in Guangdong, Yunnan and Hunan provinces, and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, involving the killing and smuggling of about 200 pangolins and 6,000 wild birds.

Bai said such of the smuggling was done by organized groups, or even gangs, but he did not elaborate.

To better protect the country's wildlife, Bai urged local police to work with other agencies such as customs to deal with the illegal wildlife trade and maintain regular control and monitoring mechanisms.

The vice-minister also called for more public participation in protecting animals.

"One of the major reasons for the illegal hunting and trade of animals is that the public have not yet realized the importance of ecosystem protection. There's still a big market for illegal wildlife," Bai said.

Experts have said that the Chinese appetite for exotic dishes makes it an ideal market for wild animal smugglers.

However, the law stipulates that those caught illegally hunting or trading wild animals under national protection can be sentenced to more than 10 years' jail.

(China Daily December 5, 2007)

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