The loopholes in China’s wildlife ban

Posted by Imogen Searra on 31 March 2020

In January 2020, the trade in wildlife in China was placed under a temporary ban as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan in a wet market, where trafficked exotic animals are sold.

In light of the ban, conservation groups have been calling for the Chinese government to put clearer restrictions in place, according to Al Jazeera. These groups want specifics around what to do if encountering any potential illegal activity. They also want government to address the issue that the ban has focused on wildlife consumption, rather than a holistic ban on all wildlife trade entirely.

At a press conference, State Administration for Market Regulation Liang Aifu said that over 750,000 pieces of information about wildlife trade were removed or blocked from major e-commerce platforms and 17,000 online stores or accounts were closed, according to Xinhuanet.

The Ministry of Transport has ordered express delivery companies to stop transporting live animals and other wildlife products. The ministry has been tasked with inspecting packages more stringently before they are shipped.

The Chinese Academy of Engineering estimated in 2017 that the wildlife trade industry is valued at $74-billion. Despite this, the government has pledged to revise laws surrounding the wildlife trade.

China’s government has been criticised for only placing emphasis on the consumption of meat from wildlife. Calls have been made to include the fur, leather and animal parts for traditional medicine.

Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare at the UN, said: ‘Although these endangered species are protected by international and domestic laws banning the trade in their parts and derivatives, loopholes and exceptions are actively created and exploited by those who benefit from commercial trade in wildlife.’

Conservation groups have brought to light the fact that trading of animals which may carry zoonotic viruses (transferred from animals to humans) will persist if these issues aren’t addressed.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zhou Jinfeng, head of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation said: ‘Right now, there isn’t enough regulation specifying the responsibility of online platforms.’

‘If they don’t play their role and are not able to step up their monitoring mechanisms, stopping online wildlife trade will be difficult. I hope the government can come up with rules to urge online platforms to take their responsibility.’

Richard Thomas, a spokesman for wildlife monitoring group, TRAFFIC, told Al Jazeera: ‘Worldwide governments face a dilemma here: If you ban trade, you risk pushing it underground, where those dangerous conditions are likely to be prevalent – and realistically it’s just a matter of time before the next zoonotic disease risk emerges.’

‘If you manage legal trade properly, the risk of disease emergence should be mitigated but it needs to be thoroughly monitored and regulated.’

Image: Unsplash

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