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China cracks down on poaching wildlife for dinner


10:01, December 01, 2012

ZIXI, Jiangxi Province, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Police in east China have arrested two men and closed down two restaurants, including one frequented by government officials, in a crackdown on those poaching wild animals and plating them as delicacies.

So far in the crackdown, 13 shotguns have been seized along with more than 1,300 iron clamps for trapping animals in the mountains of Zixi County, Jiangxi Province, local police said Friday.

The two men were arrested for poaching and killing seven endangered short-tail monkeys, including three infants, police told Xinhua. They sold them to farmers' markets for more than 3,000 yuan (472 U.S. dollars).

More arrests may be made as the investigation continues, police said.

Officials in the county also closed three wild animal trading stations and two restaurants, where they found frozen wild boars, barking deer, bamboo rats and snakes. Three stores selling trapping hardware were also ordered to close.

The crackdown followed media reports that restaurants in hilly Zixi were selling monkey meat.

The monkeys were captured illegally on local mountains, sold to farmers' markets, and gruesomely slaughtered and served in several restaurants.

The closed restaurants sold monkey meat for 320 yuan per dish, while monkey brains were sold for 400 yuan a plate, a Xinhua investigation found.

One of the closed restaurants had been involved in illegal wild animal transactions in downtown Zixi for years without being punished, while the other was a consistent choice for official receptions, according to police.

Four local officials, including the county's forestry bureau chief, have been sacked for failing to protect the wildlife.

Zixi has dense forests, with a wide variety of wild animals.

Local villagers told Xinhua that though the endangered monkeys are not often seen, poaching of the wildlife is quite rampant. A villager said that he once saw three poachers openly hunting wild animals with hounds in the mountains.

"We insist that no poaching cases happen again," said Yan Gangjun, head of the Jiangxi provincial forestry bureau, adding that a province-wide "severe crackdown" has been launched.

Farmers' markets, hotels and restaurants will be thoroughly inspected to prevent the trade of wild animals, he said.

Previous media reports revealed that bamboo rats and hog badgers have also been poached to be served as delicacies in Zixi restaurants.

The rampant poaching of wildlife in Zixi is partly due to understaffed forestry and police departments.

"We only have three people working in the wild animal protection stations, and all of them are working part-time," said Zhang Yuanqing, deputy director of the Zixi forestry bureau.

Zhang said although the county employs over 30 people as forest police, many of them are over 50 and unfit for active law enforcement in the mountains.

Authorities said they will now try installing cameras in mountains and encourage local residents to participate in the enforcement work.

People in some parts of China maintain the centuries-old tradition of eating exotic wildlife as a delicacy. But the tradition has been on the decline in recent years due to people's fears of contracting diseases such as SARS and an increasing awareness of animal rights and welfare issues.

Screengrabs and footage from media reports drew tears and fury from many Chinese netizens, who have demanded efforts to completely stamp out the poaching and killing of wild animals.

"Please help these animals! I curse all the killers (of the monkeys) to hell!" one microblogger wrote.

According to the Chinese Criminal Law, those who illegally capture or kill endangered species of wildlife can be sentenced to no less than 10 years in prison in serious cases.

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