Consumption of wildlife in China is on the increase according to a new report released by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
It is also revealed that many of the wildlife species being consumed are threatened species.
The report, entitled State of Wildlife Trade in China 2007, is the second in an annual series produced by TRAFFIC on emerging trends in China’s wildlife trade. TRAFFIC works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
Although wildlife consumption dropped following the SARS virus scare in 2003, it has since picked up again.
Wildlife For Sale
Dried plants and animals used for traditional Chinese medicine. Included are dried lingzhi, snake, turtle plastron, Luo han fruit, and ginseng.
TRAFFIC surveyed markets and restaurants in five cities in southern China. The survey revealed that 52 percent of markets and 40 percent of restaurants had wild animals for sale.
A total of 56 species were found and, of these, eight are protected under Chinese law and 17 are protected under CITES, which prohibits or strictly controls international trade.
Wildlife found at the markets and restaurants included giant lizards, snakes, freshwater turtles, hawks, geckos, pangolin, bear paw.
The wildlife consisted of:
- 39 reptiles (accounting for 70%)
- 4 mammals (7%)
- 10 birds (18%)
- 2 amphibians (4%)
- 1 fish (2%)
Most Popular Animals
The majority of illegal wild animal trade was in freshwater turtles and snakes. In particular, the report mentions the following:
- 600 freshwater turtles were found on sale at Qingping market (excluding those in warehouses) in Guangzhou, including the Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis), Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) and Black Marsh Turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis)
- Almost 3,000 snakes were recorded in the survey, including the Taiwan beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura), Rat snake (Ptyas korros) and Tri-rope beauty snake (Elaphe radiata). The snake market was concentrated in Dongwang Frozen Product market (also known as the Chatou Wild Animal market) in Guangzhou.
Breakdown By City
The following table shows how many markets and restaurants were surveyed, along with the number of wild animals traded.
As mentioned previously, 52 percent of markets had wildlife for sale, as did 40 percent of restaurants surveyed.
with wild animal trade
with wild animal trade
Although wildlife is often eaten from a dinner plate, it is also used in traditional medicines.
The international trade in Chinese traditional medicine is growing at any annual rate of 10%. This, together with habitat loss, has impacted medicinal plant and animal populations, which have shrunk rapidly, with 15% to 20% of medicinal plants and animals now considered endangered.
Increasing Demand, Dimishing Supply
WWF, the global conservation organization, are calling on the Chinese to step up their efforts against illegal wildlife trade.
Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International’s Species Programme says ”The trends seen in this report that show increasing demand in wildlife products and diminishing supply should be a wake up call for law enforcement, policy makers and consumers,”
She added, “We call upon Chinese authorities to enhance enforcement and public education efforts, to stop illegal trade and reduce consumption of threatened species from around the world.”
Illegal Ivory Trade
The survey, which also looked at the Chinese ivory trade, found that the illegal ivory trade is actually declining.
While this is good news, TRAFFIC does point out that, due to increased enforecement, the illegal ivory trade is being pushed underground. Illegal ivory trade is more likely to take place in a hotel or via an online or offline auction.
“The reduction in the illegal ivory trade is very welcome, but we urge the authorities to remain vigilant, particularly to ensure there is no laundering of illegal ivory,” said Professor Xu Hongfa, co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s China Programme.
The World’s Second Largest Wood Importer
The report also looked into supply of wood, with China being the world’s second largest wood importer.
While Russia China’s largest wood supplier, are growing percentage of the nation’s wood comes from Africa. This increased demand is stimulting illegal timber trade in Africa.
“Chinese companies buying African timber must ensure the benefits of the timber trade are equitably shared, right down to the African rural communities on whose land the trees are growing,” said Professor Xu.