The Love and Hate Story between China and Canadian Seal Hunts

China’s environmental groups have adopted March 1 as the International Seal Day. Like many international animal advocate groups, Chinese animal protection organizations are opposed to the commercial seal hunt in Canada.

Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Controversy

Canadian law prohibits people from interfering with the natural ecology of marine mammals such as seals. At the same time, however, the Canadian government has also approved the annual commercial killing of hundreds of thousands of seals, explicitly prohibiting the hunting of small seals with white fur and less than 12 days old.

People who support the commercial seal hunt say that the seals that Canadians mainly hunt are not endangered species, and the overproduction of seals may impact the ecosystem: if seals eat a lot of cod, the Canadian fishermen will lose cod resources. They stress that though seal hunting scenes tend to be bloody, Canadian seal hunting follows the highest standards of slaughter and fully satisfies the protection of animal welfare. They denied the existence of “live stripping seals” and “killing seal pups” accused by animal protectionists.

Seals are marine mammals with a gestation period of nine months. Female seals give births to one pup at a time, and the animals wean by the age of four to six weeks.
Credit: Abertay University

The voice against the commercial seal hunt is louder on a global scale. Animal advocates claim that 95% of the hunted seals were less than three months old because the seals are poor at swimming and foraging and reluctant to leave the ice, so they are more likely to be killed. Oceanographers who oppose the commercial killing of seals say that the reduction of Atlantic cod is associated with increased human fishing and has nothing to do with seals.

With the efforts of animal protectionists, 35 countries have banned commercial seal trade. Since the 1970s, more than 30 countries and regions including the United States, Mexico, Croatia, and the European Union have banned the import of seal products and the consumption and trade of seal fur. Because of consumer resistance, North American seal products are also rare. However, in some Asian markets, seal products are still selling well.

Canadian environmental and animal activists protest the commercial seal hunt.
Credit: AFP

China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Market

In 2011, news that the Federal Fisheries Department of Canada announced a new trade agreement so that China would start to import Canadian seal meat in the hopes that the Chinese market will compensate for the EU’s ban on the importation of seal meat.

In addition to China’s large market, Canada’s commercial seal industry also strives to lobby Asian countries and regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan to import seal products.

However, under the resolute opposition of animal protection organizations from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and around the world, China does not seem to agree to open the world’s largest food and consumer goods market. The Chinese customs also imposed strict restrictions on seal products, but a trade ban has not been officially implemented. Hong Kong and Taiwan have also restricted the market for seal products from the government to consumers.

All information comes from www.bbc.com

Translated by Andrea Jia

Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

The Initial Stage of the WWF Snow Leopard Survey Project is a Success

From August 2018 to January 2019, the Tianshan Eastern Forest Administration of Xinjiang province collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Snow Leopard Protection Project to carry out a four-month winter snow leopard survey in the eastern Wusu administration area. The investigation has brought some great news.

The Eastern Wusu Branch is in the middle of the northern slope of the Tianshan Mountains, covering 150 kilometers from east to west and 10 kilometers from north to south. It is one of the largest government-owned forests in the Tianshan Mountains.

Since the WWF Snow Leopard Project started in the Eastern Tianshan Mountains in August 2018, a series of training programs and field practices in Wusu have been conducted, and a team of Wusu ecological management inspectors has been assembled. A total of 60 infrared camera traps were set up near traces of snow leopard activities (marking, footprints, scat), covering an area of 550 km2, almost 10 times the size of Manhattan.

The habitat of snow leopards at Wusu | Photo Credit: Bing He WWF China

During the winter field survey, the staff found multiple fresh snow leopard footprints, scrapings, and feces. A total of 417 photos and videos were successfully captured by the 25 retrieved infrared cameras, yielding a capture rate of over 80%. It has been fully confirmed that the Wusu forest area is an extremely important snow leopard habitat in the Tianshan Mountains.

The staff has also witnessed the activities of other animals in the wild, which played an important role in establishing the local Biodiversity Database. The ecosystem in this region shows a typical change in vegetation with increasing altitude. The constantly changing vegetations form many transition zones, contributing to the high level of biodiversity in the region.

The footprints of snow leopard found in the wild
Photo Credit: Chong Huang WWF China

It is worth noting that infrared cameras have also captured snow leopards in low-altitude forest areas, yet most scientists believe that snow leopards only inhabit mountain loess (fine-grained clay or silt), meadows, and sparse woodlands. This discovery is of great importance since it shows that snow leopards have strong adaptability in the Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang.

All information comes from www.wwfchina.org

Translated by Dule

Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

China legalizes rhino horns and tiger bones for medicinal use after 25-year ban

On October 29, 2018, The China State Council issued a notice on the strict control of the operation and utilization of rhinoceros and tigers and their products, and simultaneously abolished the former rhino horn and tiger bone trade ban issued in 1993.

The new notice allows the sale, purchase, use, import, and export of rhinoceros and tigers and their products under certain conditions prescribed by law, whereas in the 1993 notice, the above acts were banned entirely.

The issue in focus is the authorization for obtaining products for medicinal use from artificially bred or naturally dead rhinoceros and tigers. Many worry the new regulation may be abused.

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@WildAid

Environmental protection organizations are stunned by the re-opening of the rhinoceros and tiger products market after 25 years of prohibition. While we mourn the loss of the trade ban, let us also examine the example of China’s domestic ivory trade. Since 1981, the Chinese ivory market has opened and closed several times until the latest trade ban in December 2017. Moreover, the period of rampant poaching and rising illegal trade coincided with China’s second opening of the domestic ivory market. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, stated in its reports that the existence of a legal ivory market leaves some space for the illegal market, raising the demand for ivory and the number of poached African elephants.

With the painful lessons of ivory, we must also pay enough attention to the rhinoceros and tiger market opening, because this may once again lead to an increase in incidences of illegal poaching. At present, the number of wild tigers in the world is only over 3,900, and the number of wild rhinoceros is around 30,000, so protection work is needed urgently.

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@Bandao

Animal Dialogue believes that only by strengthening supervision and making standard requirements for various industries can we prevent the influx of unlawful rhinoceros and tiger products. We propose some suggestions for relevant departments and enterprises listed below:

  1. The government should strengthen the enforcement of the ban by departments such as the customs, public security, and internet supervision.
  2. The authorities ought to release a list of hospitals and physicians who are permitted to utilize rhinoceros and tiger bones in medicine and create clear product labels to inform the public better.
  3. The administrative agencies should establish records of an inventory of products and carry out statistical work on the number of rhinoceros and tigers in zoos, farms, scientific research bases, and so on. They should also audit the inventory and quantity regularly.
  4. Internet businesses should improve the management of websites and e-commerce platforms, delete illegal information about rhinoceros and tiger products from the platform promptly, and actively cooperate with authorities to investigate suspected crimes.
  5. We urge the e-commerce industry to train delivery practitioners to identify rhinoceros horns and tiger bones so they may refuse to deliver suspected rhinoceros and tiger products.
  6. In the process of artificial breeding of rhinoceros and tigers, the farming industry should ensure both the physical and mental welfare of these animals.

Wild animals always belong in nature, and we and all those who love wild animals will continue to pay attention to the protection of wild rhinoceros and tigers as well as illegal market trade.

Update:

On November 12th, China announced it is postponing the lifting of the 1993 ban on rhino horns and tiger bones, after a massive wave of criticism from international conservation groups. The relevant plans have been called off, and the old ban is still in place. China’s stance on wildlife conservation remains unchanged. It will continue to enforce the “three strict bans”: “strictly ban the import and export of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts; strictly ban the sale, purchase, transport, carrying, and mailing of rhinos, tigers, and their byproducts; and strictly ban the use of rhino horns and tiger bones in medicine,” said State Council Executive Deputy Secretary-General Ding Xuedong.

Translated by Andrea Jia

Edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

Parental behaviors of Chinese mountain cats were recorded in the Sanjiangyuan area

For the first time, parental behaviors of the Chinese mountain cat were recorded in the Sanjiangyuan area.

Recently, the childcare activities of the endemic Chinese mountain cat, Felis bieti, were recorded for the first time in a site near Tongtian River, Chengduo County, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

The Chinese mountain cat is the national second-class protected animal in China. It is also one of only two unique carnivores found solely in China, the other one being the giant panda. At present, the Chinese Mountain Cat is seen only in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, and other regions. Due to the species’ elusive nature and limited range, records of their appearance have been minimal for many years. It was only 11 years ago in 2007 that the first photo of a Chinese mountain cat was captured in the wild. It is considered one of the most mysterious felids in the world.

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“From September 20, 2018, one of the infrared cameras deployed in the area of Chengduo County had been recording the breeding nest of a Chinese mountain cat, and it continuously captured the behavior of a Chinese mountain cat mother and two kittens.” Zhao Xiang, the program director of the ShanShui Conservation Center, said. “This survey recorded the activity of a Chinese mountain cat family. The two kittens were 2 to 3 months old, and their mother trained them to hunt preys and perform other skills everyday. Also, the footage was complete.”

The Chinese Mountain Cat is one of the top carnivores in the grassland. They mainly feed on rodents such as pikas and birds. The survey indicated that Chinese mountain cats prey on two plateau pikas every day. Therefore, protecting Chinese Mountain Cats is also very important for maintaining the integrity of the grassland ecosystem.

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“Because the Chinese mountain cat is only found in China, we need to play a more important role in its research and protection,” said Dr. Xiao Lingyun, a researcher at Peking University Nature Conservation and Social Development. He told reporters that currently, the academic community knows very little about their behavior, population status, and other information.

In the future, ShanShui Nature Conservation Center will further cooperate with county officials to conduct long-term evaluation surveys in the surrounding areas to determine the distribution of Chinese mountain cats in the region and threats to the population to implement targeted protection work.

All information and photos come from The China News: http://zdx.forestry.gov.cn/bhxh/640/20181015/000224143262767.html

Translator: Sherry Yao

First edits: Andrea Jia

Final edits: Riley Peng

@Animal Dialogue

The first public interest litigation on endangered animal conservation was held in Kunming, Yunnan

On August 28th, 2018, the very first public interest litigation on endangered animal conservation in China, the case on green peafowl habitat protection, was held in the Environmental Court of Kunming Intermediate People’s Court. The trial opened on the 28th. After three hours of court investigation and debate, the court announced the end of the trial. The sentence would be announced at a later date.

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A green peafowl in its habitat in Kunming, Yunnan @ Wei Zhang, Wild China

In July 2017, to prevent the construction of the Jiasa River-I hydropower station from destroying the last intact green peafowl habitat in China, Friends of Nature brought a lawsuit. The lawsuit demanded that the defendants, the China Hydropower Consulting Group Xinping Co. Ltd and China Power Construction Group Kunming Survey and Design Institute Co. Ltd, halt the construction of the hydropower station in the Jiasa River.

The focus of the case centered around whether the two defendants would cause large-scale destructions to the ecosystems in the inundated areas. The plaintiff, Friends of Nature, stated that the inundated area of the construction project was a habitat with the largest green peafowl population. The construction would result in substantial environmental damage to the critical habitat of green peafowls, and would very likely cause the green peafowls in the region to go extinct.

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@ Xiaosong Zhuang

The representatives from the defendants’ side questioned the professionalism of the plaintiff’s experts. They argued in court that, based on their environmental impact assessment, the construction would cause no considerable damage to the ecosystems and the species.

The construction project is located in a tropical rainforest, where the biodiversity would be tremendously damaged by the hydropower station.

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Currently, the two defendants are waiting for instructions from relevant government departments as to whether or not to resume the construction.

All information and photos come from Friends of Nature: http://www.fon.org.cn/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=13220:2018-08-30-02-37-33&Itemid=176

Translated by Dule and edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

The 2018 International Alliance of Protected Areas Annual Meeting

From September 13-14, the 2018 International Alliance of Protected Areas Annual Meeting was held in the Baekdu Mountains.

The meeting mainly focused on the role of natural protected areas as the human ecological safety bottomline. Scientists from different countries delivered presentations on different research areas and had a conversation on the functions of ecosystems and the management of protected areas.

The Baekdu Mountains, also called the Changbai Mountains in Chinese, is located in Jilin Province in northeastern China. It is famous for its unique cultural heritage and biodiversity. In the meeting, the Jilin Province representative emphasized the ecological importance of the Baekdu Mountains ecosystems and hoped to further enhance international communication and cooperation on future environmental protection plans.

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In the conference, Wenhua Xiong, Director of the Office of the International Society of Zoological Sciences, the Secretary of the East African Wildlife Insurance Association, and the Nature Guardian Wildlife Development and Research Center jointly signed a tripartite cooperation memorandum, further promoting the development of wildlife conservation in both Africa and China.

Translated by Dule and edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

All information and photos come from People.cn: http://env.people.com.cn/n1/2018/0914/c1010-30294686.html

The 2018 International Conference for Snow Leopard Conservation

Since the 2013 Global Snow Leopard Forum, snow leopard range countries and international partners have actively promoted the implementation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Conservation Plan (GSLEP) and achieved remarkable results. However, this species is still threatened by habitat degradation, climate change, poaching, etc. Insufficient knowledge on its status and population is a roadblock for future conservation efforts.

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Following the 3rd meeting of the Steering Committee Meeting of GSLEP in June 2018, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China (NFGA), National Park Administration (NPA), together with China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, held the next International Conference for Snow Leopard Conservation (ICSC) in Shenzhen, China from September 3rd -7th.

Government representatives, snow leopard conservation scholars from different research areas, and frontline staff were all invited to the conference. They all came from different countries in Central and South Asia (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), where most snow leopards are distributed in.

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Koustubh Sharma, a representative from the Instruction Office of Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP)

The conference aimed to provide a platform for exchanging experience and knowledge to further enhance the academic and political communications between different countries, as well as to promote research on snow leopards conservation.

Another goal of the conference was to reach the “Shenzhen Consensus,” to bring all the governments together to collaborate on snow leopard conservation in the future. “Shenzhen Consensus” has been approved without opposition in the conference on September 5th.

The conference mainly focused on the following topics:

1. The population density and distribution of snow leopards and their preys
2. The threats snow leopards in different countries and areas are currently facing
3. The regular and developing methods used to study snow leopards
4. Interspecies relationships in the habitats of snow leopards and the ecological importance of snow leopards in these ecosystems
5. Species conservation based in local communities
6. Successful examples of snow leopards conservation

Information gathered by Huiyuan Qi, as well as from Dute News

All photos taken by Huiyuan Qi

Translated by Dule and edited by Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue