China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) said Friday the country's first-ever auction of hunting quotas scheduled for Sunday was postponed.
SFA spokesman Cao Qingyao said, "The auction will be held in a proper way after soliciting suggestions from the public." However, he would not give a date.
Angry Chinese Internet users attacked the auction of quotas for 289 animals of 14 species as purely profit-driven. However, the SFA, also China's wildlife protection agency, said the animals proposed for hunting were not endangered species and restricted hunting would help their protection.
Wang Wei, deputy director of wildlife protection at the SFA, said the planned auction would increase transparency and efficiency in the hunting industry.
"However, the response from the public is beyond our expectation," said Wang.
Foreigners would have been allowed to hunt animals like yak if they successfully bid at the auction planned in Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan Province.
Foreigners were previously allowed to hunt in China only after going through complicated application procedures. By the end of last year, China had garnered 36.39 million U.S. dollars by allowing 1,101 foreigners to hunt 1,347 animals since 1985.
China's hunting quota rose from three animals in 1985 to 123 in 2005. The country has opened 25 hunting ranges to foreigners.
The government has been strengthening wildlife conservation and the booming population of some animals has become a burden on local ecological system, according to Wang.
Yang Xin, head of Green River, a Chengdu-based non-governmental organization on environment protection, welcomed the postponement.
"The authorities could not be more cautious as it is the first such auction in China. The public opinion should be fully taken into consideration," Yang said.
He said Green River opposed the auction of hunting quotas as it could lead to a misunderstanding that the government is loosening protection of wild animals and the rich could hunt without restriction.
Once a foreigner wins a hunting license at the planned auction, the hunter will pay 200 U.S. dollars for a wolf, 6,000 dollars for a red deer, and 10,000 U.S. dollars for an argali, or wild Asiatic sheep with big horns.
O'gorman Dermot, chief representative of World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) China branch, also called on the Chinese government to pay special attention to the selection of species and quota setting for hunting.