On June 4, one day before World Environment Day, Shaanxi Higher People’s Court published five landmark environmental legal cases on its website. The case in which two men killed a crested ibis with slingshots caught people’s attention. The two defendants were sentenced to 10 years’ and eight years’ prison respectively for illegal hunting and killing of rare and endangered wild animals with aggravating circumstances.
According to the records from China Judgements Online, on June 1, 2016, defendants Hao and Feng shot a sizeable white bird near a river in Yaoyu Village, Yaozhou District, disregarding a passing villager’s warning that the bird is protected by law and he would report their actions to the police. The white bird screamed while running on the grass. After shooting the bird a second time with the slingshot, Feng wrapped the bird with his clothes and took the bird into the car.
On their way back, Feng noticed the bird was wearing a foot ring with code. For fear of being investigated, Feng threw the injured bird into the river. Hao complained that they could have stewed and eaten the bird after hearing that the bird was thrown away.
Later, the white bird was found and taken to the local Wildlife Conservation and Management Station by the workers there. However, the rescue failed, and the bird died. The bird was identified as a crested ibis, a species on the State Protection List. The cause of death was a human attack, which caused severe injuries in the bird’s neck and chest, as well as fractures in its left wing with excessive bleeding.
The local People’s Court held the trial of Feng and Hao and ruled that they deliberately shot a crested ibis, which is under the state’s special protection, with a slingshot, and abandoned the injured bird instead of rescuing it, leading to its death. Their action constitutes the crime of illegal hunting and killing of rare and endangered wild animals, and the circumstances of their crimes are severe, according to the court. Feng was convicted of illegal hunting and killing of rare and endangered wild animals and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, with a 3,000 yuan fine. Hao was convicted of the same crime and sentenced to eight years imprisonment, with a 3,000 yuan fine.
The two defendants filed an appeal against the sentencing. The local People’s Court held a retrial and subsequently rejected the appeal, upholding the original judgment.
According to Shaanxi High People’s Court, the crested ibis is one of the least abundant bird species in the world. It is under special state protection with high ecological, social, and cultural values. The People’s Court’s sentence for the two defendants reflected the principle to prosecute environmental crimes severely, highlighted the independent status of the environmental law, and achieved the deterrence and educational purpose of the law. Such a case would have a profound impact on wildlife conservation and the maintenance of ecological security.
In response to the media release of the case, many netizens commented that the defendants deserve the criminal charges as crested ibis is an endangered species. However, some also questioned the severity of the sentence for shooting one bird.
According to the High People’s Court, killing one crested ibis will be regarded as “especially severe” when determining the severity of cases of illegally catching, killing, purchasing, transporting or selling wild animal species under special state protection.
According to Article 341 of Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, if the protected species was rare or near extinction, any person who catches, kills, illegally purchases, transports or sells the species and their products shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of no more than five years or criminal detention and concurrently be punished with a fine. If the circumstances are severe, the offender shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of five to ten years with a fine. If the circumstances are especially severe, the offender shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years and concurrently be sentenced with a fine or confiscation of property.
All information comes from https://baijiahao.baidu.com/
Translated by LiAn Pan
Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue