Saturday, June 12, 2004

Wildlife trade in China

I watched a CCTV current affairs programme that featured a case where the wildlife traffickers were nabbed. Yunnan Forestry Police has been trying to arrest a known trafficker Chen Gang for two years, but the wily fox managed to slip away everytime. Wildlife trafficking has become increasingly sophisticated. Criminals conduct their transactions via banks not in cash. In Chen's case, he brings in wildlife like pangolins, bear paws and gall bladders from Burma, Laos and Vietnam via Yunan and then distributes throughout China.

Police finally tracked him down in Kunming City and put him under surveillance to round up the entire network. The process revealed the criminals' modus operandi. Even though pangolins were known to make loud human baby-like cries, they were drugged using tranquiliser injections. They were then packed in layered boxes with ventilation and then shipped to Hunan province by trained. The windows of their hideout were reinforced with metal bars and wire to prevent the pangolins from escaping.

The programme showed that an owl's purchase price was only RMB$1.6 (about S$0.30!), the sale price at coastal provinces is a staggering RMB$1500 (S$300). A bear gall bladder purchased for RMB$700 retails for about RMB$ 2500. Police said that criminal gangs in the Yunan border area traditionally involved in smuggling drugs, cigarettes and alcohol had been turning to wildlife because of the immense profit.

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