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'Hunting Hangups'

(Global Times)

08:39, August 24, 2011

The State Forestry Administration (SFA) is studying an application from seven foreign nationals for leisure hunting of wild animals in China – all categorized as a second-class precious species under State protection. Such animals may be hunted if provincial authorities grant the permits.

If the administration approves it by September, they will become the first foreign hunters allowed in China since a ban in 2006, according to the Beijing News.

Their attempt to hunt nine Himalayan blue sheep and seven Tibetan gazelles in Dulan county, Qinghai Province, this autumn has outraged more than 70 animal protection organizations in China. The organizations held a protest last week.

"We firmly oppose animal hunting activities. They are all second-class State-protected animals," Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association, told the Global Times. "We're negotiating with local authorities to put a stop to the application."

Hunting activities in China by foreigners were suspended after the country's first controversial international wild animal hunting quota auction in 2006, which sparked ravenous public outcry.

More than 1,100 foreign nationals have killed about 1,300 wild animals in China since 1985, according to Forestry Administration statistics, and such activities brought in more than $36 million to local governments.

Hunting for a reason
A likely resumption of hunting activities for foreigners in China is based on the idea their hunting will only cause a 0.33 percent loss in animal populations, the Beijing News reported, citing a source with Dulan International Game Land in Qinghai Province, which offers hunting tours.

The company applied for its 2011-12 license permitting the hunting of 520 Himalayan blue sheep, 1.2 percent of the overall Himalayan blue sheep population in the area, and 53 Tibetan gazelles, 3.48 percent of the total number there, it said.

The 2011-12 quotas for hunting wild animals on a national scale were not available.

Well-managed hunting activities are also conducive to generating revenue for local governments, according to Yan Xun, a deputy director of the administrations wildlife protection department. Yan said 56 percent of profits from hunting go into local officials' pockets, the Beijing News reported.

Wang Wei, manager of a Beijng-based travel agency handling hunter applications, agreed. Hunting 100 animals in 10 years from 1995 to 2005 has earned Qinghai Province 1.6 million yuan ($0.24 million), in which 15 to 35 percent was put toward animal conservation and grassland compensation, Wang was quoted by the Beijing News as saying.

In an effort to ease public concern, a representative with Dulan International Game Land explained hunters, regardless of their nationalities, are required to sign contracts with travel agencies to ensure they conform to Chinese laws while hunting. Experienced hunting guides make sure laws are followed, he said.

One of the stipulations is only old or ill male animals can be hunted, as opposed to young females, the Beijing News reported.

"Wild animals are renewable resources, and they will die-out if they are not taken care of, which is a huge waste," a staff member with a wild animal protection organization told the Wuhan-based Chutian Metropolis Daily. "In fact, in foreign countries, hunting has already grown into a mature industry."

Public outcry
For the country's animal protection activists, such reasoning to defend hunting is not convincing.

"Nature has its own rules. Animals are not subject to human abuse," Qin Xiaona told the Global Times. "Supervision for hunters is difficult as they could kill strong and healthy animals, which would threaten the species as a whole in the long run."

Qin further said gaining profits was only an excuse for hunting activities, as the amount appears to be too little to play a role in protecting animals.

Zhang Dan, organizer of the Beijing-based China Animal Protection Media Salon, agreed.

"We were shocked at the news that hunting by foreigners might resume this year. Such astonishment grew into anger as we believe these hunters only regard wild animals as trophies to show off," Zhang told the Global Times. "Even worse, resumption of hunting would offer poachers opportunities to kill more animals illegally."

Zhang added animal protection agencies from more than 70 countries jointly wrote a letter Saturday to China's Forestry Administration demanding hunting is halted, and they are seeking face-to-face negotiations with officials.

"Public outcry is understandable as environmental protection consciousness has been strengthened." Xi Zhinong, a wildlife photographer, told the Global Times.

Xi said money from such hunts should be used to help better monitor wild animal management. "Let's put the government agencies under tighter scrutiny in that regard," he said.

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