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Animal rights campaigners are calling on the Chinese people to lose their taste for wild animal meat, as the government carries out a major crackdown on poaching nationwide.
On Thursday, the China Wildlife Conservation Association signed a public appeal urging people to refuse to put wild animal meat on dining tables, saying the increasing consumption is at the root of poaching and illegal trading.
An animal protection volunteer looks at the body of a dead Oriental white stork at Beidagang Natural Reserve in Tianjin on Nov 12. About 20 of the endangered storks were found dead after being poisoned by poachers. Wang Jianing / for China Daily
According to a 1999 survey of 20,000 people by the State Forestry Administration and China Wildlife Conservation Association, nearly half of 1,381 restaurants across the country had wild animal meat on the menu, and 46 percent of respondents said they had eaten wild game.
The four-month poll was carried out in 21 large and medium-size cities, where people generally have more money to spend on such delicacies.
"Although years have passed, such strong demand for eating wild animals has not changed or faded in China," said Zhao Shengli, deputy secretary-general of the association. "In fact, even more people, especially rich people, have started to eat them in recent years."
The group's appeal to the public comes after China Central Television reported that restaurants in hilly Zixi county, Jiangxi province, had State-protected wild animals on their menus, including macaques, badger pigs, Chinese bamboo rats and wild geese.
Footage from CCTV on Tuesday showed monkeys were killed illegally on mountains and sold at farmers markets, or gruesomely slaughtered and served in several restaurants.
Monkey meat can sell for 560 yuan ($90) per kg, while monkey brain can fetch 1,600 yuan per kg, according to the report.
On Wednesday, two men were detained, and authorities said more arrests were possible as the investigation continues. Four officials, including the county's forestry bureau chief, have been sacked.
On the same day, authorities in Guangdong province said more than 1,300 restaurants and hotels and 102 people involved in poaching, transporting and trading migrant birds and other wild animals have been punished.
A series of strict campaigns against poaching and trading in endangered wild animals will be launched across the country in the coming days, Yan Xun, chief engineer of the department of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management of the State Forestry Administration, was quoted as saying by CCTV on Thursday.
China is abundant in wildlife. More than 10 percent of the world's wild vertebrate species — more than 6,000 species — are found in China, according to the State Forestry Administration.
"But people in some parts of China maintain the centuries-old custom of eating exotic wildlife as a delicacy, which is a major reason for the severely declining number of wild animals now," said Feng Zuojian, a researcher at the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"Refusing to eat wild animals is one of the signs of civilization. In many foreign countries, especially in Europe, there are no restaurants that serve wild animals," he said.
Under the Chinese Criminal Law, those who illegally catch or kill endangered wildlife species can be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Animal rights campaigners are urging authorities to tighten supervision — and make punishments stronger — to eliminate poaching and illegal sales of wild animals.
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