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Laws, Health Threats Doing Nothing To Stop China's Trade In Illegal & Endangered Wildlife - AFP

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-14-07 01:27 PM
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Laws, Health Threats Doing Nothing To Stop China's Trade In Illegal & Endangered Wildlife - AFP

In a quiet corner of the damp and slippery market, however, some unusual animals are on sale. Wild pigs and a group of fat cats lay lazily in their cages, apparently unconcerned by the stall owners who hover idly nearby reading newspapers. Deeper inside the market, the wildlife on offer becomes even more unusual: Chinese muntjacs, small deer with dark red-brown fur popular in claypot stews, huddle in dark corners. Furthest from the stream of shoppers, and available only to those in the know, are the creatures that shouldn't be here at all, animals taken from the wild in such numbers they now face extinction and their consumption is banned.

But the bans appear to have had little impact. Here in southern China, where generations-old gastronomic traditions mean exotic wildlife are still regarded as culinary delicacies, those who want to throw an endangered beast in the pot need only the money to pay for it as an animal's rarity simply makes it more expensive. And that in turn makes their sale in markets like Shenzhen's all the more lucrative. "Some of them are used for medicinal purposes while some people believe they are good for their health," said Timothy Lam, senior programme officer at the East Asian arm of TRAFFIC, the international monitor of the sale of endangered species.

"Sometimes they believe the more difficult they are to get, the better they are for you," Lam added. A 2006 survey by the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and WildAid found 42 percent of the restaurants and 60 percent of the wholesale markets polled in 16 Chinese cities -- but especially those in southern Guangdong province -- served dishes featuring the meat of wild animals.

The report also showed 80 types of wildlife species were sold throughout the country, worryingly up on the 53 varieties found in a 1999 survey.

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