Illegal wildlife trade grows in China
BEIJING (Reuters) - Criminal cases involving illegal hunting of wildlife and trade in wild animals have risen 11.5 percent so far this year to 10,818, the government said on Tuesday.
Statistics from the State Forestry Administration and China Wildlife Conservation Association show that a total of 172,471 wildlife cases were recorded in the first 10 months of 2007, up 2.7 percent compared with the same period last year.
China is a country of traditionally enthusiastic omnivores, and as incomes have risen in recent years consumption of everything from beef to civet cat and sharks' fin has grown accordingly.
The government has stepped up efforts in recent years to stamp out the domestic wildlife trade and educate people about the environmental perils of stripping forest of their native flora and fauna.
"Both individual and collective efforts to protect wildlife should be highly encouraged and rewarded while the punishments for dereliction of duty to protect wildlife will become more severe," Bai Jingfu, Vice Minister of Public Security, told a news conference.
Chinese law stipulates that causing injury to rare animals is punishable by up to 10 years or more in prison and a fine.
According to Interpol, the trade in illegal wildlife products could be $12 billion a year globally.
(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom, editing by Nick Macfie)