Published: 11:39, February 25, 2020 | Updated: 07:25, June 6, 2023
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Better protecting wildlife good for all
By Liu Jianna

Editor’s note: The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, is expected to pass a decision on thoroughly banning illegal wildlife trade and eliminating the bad habits of eating wild animals to safeguard people's lives and health. What needs to be done to protect wildlife as well as public health? Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily’s Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:


Legislation revision to strengthen protection of wild animals

That the top legislature is reviewing the draft ban is encouraging news, especially because some people have been making huge profits from the trade in wildlife at the expense of China's reputation and Chinese people's health while the wildlife protection department is forced to take the blame.

Many animals including bats are not included in the country's wildlife protection list, which has not been updated for 30 years except for some small adjustments. The existing wildlife protection law focuses on protecting the species of rare and endangered wild animals, keeping out a big number of terrestrial vertebrates from the protected list.

Therefore, it is necessary to update the wildlife protection list and forbid the taming and breeding of all wild animals, except those that can be legally bred and sold in the market. This will help stop the sale of more wild animals and prevent humans from coming in contact with them and thus greatly reduce the chances animal-to-human disease transmission.

As China's ban on ivory trade in 2018 shows, keeping legislation abreast of the times can significantly promote wildlife protection and prompt people to change their habits of wildlife product consumption.

In fact, after the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2002-03, wildlife trade has largely diminished in Guangdong province .

In short, the wildlife protection law should be further strengthened and publicized to prevent consumption of wild animals. And the public should be endowed with supervision rights so they can play a bigger role in wildlife protection.

Zhang Li, a professor of ecology at Beijing Normal University and general secretary of the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology Foundation

Enforcement of law more crucial in protection

The wildlife protection law should be expanded to cover all wildlife, not just the ones on the protection list. Wild animals like hares and pheasants should also be protected, albeit differently from the way rare and endangered animals are protected.

As a matter of fact, the biggest problem with wildlife protection lies not in legislation, but the lax enforcement of the law, mostly because of a lack of grassroots law enforcement personnel. Many local governments don't have forestry bureaus, which are in charge of wild animal protection.

Besides, the many departments involved in wildlife protection including the forestry and grassland administration, industrial and commercial administrative departments, public security departments and agricultural departments should have more clearly defined responsibilities.

The institutional restructuring goal of “one thing should be managed and resolved by one department” has not proved as effective as expected. In practice, wildlife is divided into terrestrial and aquatic animals, which are managed by the forestry and agricultural departments, respectively. But who is responsible for amphibians such as frogs?

There is also confusion over the management of wildlife in between the natural habitat and the market, as the commercial administrative departments deal with wildlife only when they enter the market. The loopholes in law enforcement need to be plugged.

While the new law on wildlife protection should clearly define wildlife, artificially bred wild animals, such as sika deer and giant salamander, should be viewed as domesticated animals and managed like pigs and chickens. They should be raised, quarantined and tested according to strict standards to ensure their safe use. And all trading and eating of wildlife, irrespective of whether they are on the protection list, should be banned.

The coronavirus outbreak is warning that the detection of wildlife epidemic and disease is related to the disease control system, and it needs significant improvement. Until now, attention has been paid only to controlling the spread of disease among domesticated animals such as the spread of avian influenza and swine fever, while the control of viruses and bacteria at source remains weak. Wild animals, especially bats, marmots and muroids should be tested for the viruses they carry to prevent them from endangering public health.

Tang Xiaoping, deputy director of the National Park Management Office affiliated to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration

Both wild and domesticated animals must be protected

Prioritizing protection of wild animals, China's wildlife protection law also emphasizes the limited and proper use of wild animals. For instance, some practitioners of folk art make a living by taming monkeys and using them in performances. If all commercial use of wildlife is banned, these people would lose their livelihoods and folk art forms would die an untimely death. Therefore, the principle of proper use, not zero use, of wildlife should be upheld.

And the Criminal Law, which prescribes heavy punishment for those killing and indiscriminately capturing wild animals, should be strictly enforced. Besides, the compensation mechanism should be improved to better manage the cases of wild animals injuring or killing people or disrupting their livelihoods.

Prohibiting the indiscriminate trading in and consumption of wild animals is necessary, especially given the coronavirus outbreak, which is speculated to be connected with the consumption of wild animals. But instead of indiscriminately punishing everyone suspected of trading in or consuming wild animals, the authorities should find the root cause of the issue.

To end the chaos surrounding wildlife protection, a comprehensive animal protection law not limited to wildlife, but also including pets, domesticated and performing animals, should be introduced and classified management and protection implemented.

Qiao Xinsheng, a professor of law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.