A revised draft of Heilongjiang's Wild Animals Protection Regulation, presented to the Standing Committee of the provincial People's Congress recently, aims to strengthen protection of wildlife habitats and food chains.
It said those transporting and selling wildlife and related products should follow laws and provide relevant certificates.
The regulation would ban the unauthorized release of aquatic animals into the wild and the releasing of animals that may interfere with residents' normal lives and harm the ecosystem.
The regulation would ban the unauthorized release of aquatic animals into the wild and the releasing of animals that may interfere with residents' normal lives and harm the ecosystem
The regulation would also ban the release of wild animal species that are not naturally found in Heilongjiang or come from outside the northeastern province or overseas.
Organizers and participants in tourism, animal viewing, photography and video activities should not interfere with the growth and reproduction of wild animals or destroy the habitats of wild animals.
Those violating the rules could face fines of up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,420).
Wildlife expert Zhang Wei, a professor at Northeast Forestry University, in Harbin, the provincial capital, said the current regulation, in force since 1996, was unable to meet the practical demands of wildlife protection. The new version, following the basic principles of the Law on Protection of Wildlife, was significant and necessary.
"The practice of setting animals free is not new," he said. "Many people who have released animals are moved primarily by a desire to bring good fortune to themselves and their families.
"Fish, turtles, birds, snakes and foxes are the most popular choice of animals."
However, most animals raised on farms or in homes could not adapt to the harsh conditions in the wild, Zhang said. They did not know how to hunt for food or protect themselves in the wild, and most of those set free would die.
"Furthermore, setting animals free without doing an investigation could also have a negative influence on the ecological balance," he said. "If the released animals don't have natural enemies here, the number will grow very fast and threaten other species."
In March 2016, about 300 to 400 foxes and raccoon dogs were released in Beijing's Huairou district, according to the Beijing Evening News.
In the following days, local villagers reported that some of their poultry had been killed by raccoon dogs and foxes seeking food.
To prevent further financial losses, the local forest authority dispatched 30 officers to catch the raccoon dogs and foxes. They found about 100, with 40 having died because they were incapable of surviving in the wild.
Zhang said releasing animals in the wild had become a profitable business for some people.
"Animal catchers are always hunting those wild animals that are popular among practitioners, such as birds," he said. "Many birds are injured or even die before being set free, and quite a few die soon after being released.
"Protecting wildlife, especially endangered species, needs not only the concern and efforts of the whole society, but also professional practice that follows laws and regulations."
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