On September 20th, the Public Security Bureau of Jingjia County of Shijiazhuang City, together with the local police station, patrolled the surrounding mountain area and determined to strengthen the local wildlife protection force further.
The county situates in the deep mountainous area of Ceyu and borders two provinces and five counties. The area is densely forested, and there are various wild species. Some of the local wild animals, such as boars, lynxes, foxes, and hares, have severely damaged the villagers’ crops. As a result, some locals have been hunting them down with hatred, and some locals also hunt them for the profit of wildlife products.
Starting from June this year, the campaign “Drawing the Sword 2019” has brought the local police station to pay special attention to wildlife crimes.
During the campaign, the police conducted in-depth surveys on 19 villages, educating the local people about wildlife and raising their awareness of protecting wildlife resources. Examples of locals convicted of wildlife crimes facing punishment were used to explain the laws. The locals are also encouraged to report suspected wildlife crimes. The policemen carefully patrolled and investigated the local food industry, collected intelligence from multiple sources, and followed after the information to track down the traffickers.
The police station has so far removed a total of 25 hunting clips, one set of fishing nets, and electric fish tools, further eliminating the hidden dangers that are endangering local wildlife.
Tibetan antelope has finished this year’s migration season recently. Statistics from Sanjiangyuan National Park showed that a total of 4,860 antelopes were seen migrating back to their habitats, 338 more than the number in 2018.
A Class I state-protected animal, Tibetan antelope mainly inhabit the nature reserves in the provinces of the Tibetan plateau such as Xinjiang, Tibet, and Qinghai. Their mating season is around December and females will give birth in June or July after a gestation period of roughly 200 days. Every May, pregnant Tibetan antelopes migrate across the plateau to the calving ground near Zonag Lake in Hoh Xil, situated more than 4800m above sea level. The mothers will return to their original home with the newborns in August.
The Sanjiangyuan National Park Hoh Xil office conducts frequent and intensive patrols depending on the seasonal activities of animals. Besides, the park undergoes additional annual anti-crime campaigns to protect Tibetan antelope and other rare animals in Hoh Xil.
Thanks to China’s conservation efforts, Tibetan antelope’s habitat has been improving in recent years. According to conservation officers working in Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, there was no evidence of poaching this year. They estimate that Tibetan antelope’s population had recovered to around 70,000 in the surrounding areas of Hoh Xil Natural Reserve since 2009 vs. less than 20,000 during the 1990s when poaching was rampant in this area.
On July 22, the public security bureau of forestry had a report from the local people that someone was hunting wild animals in Zhongbao, a town in Hubei, China. After investigation, the police arrested the criminal, Wang, who kept a dead tufted deer, 42 traps, and ten sets of steel wire in his home.
After interrogation, Wang admitted using hunting tools founded in his house to hunt wild animals. His behavior violated the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, and he was suspected of killing wildlife. Criminals convicted of such crime would have a three-year set term of imprisonment and a fine. Wang was arrested and detained by the local forest police on July 23. Now, the case is in process. To protect wildlife resources and the ecosystem, the local public security bureau started cracking down criminal exploitation of wildlife. Since then, the bureau had opened five criminal cases related to illegal behavior regarding wild animals.
Investigation in markets and restaurants
In a special operation to prevent wildlife trade and processing, the forest police cooperated with the market regulatory body to check on all local markets and restaurants. Individually, they investigated the side roads and touristy restaurants, especially the ones with “wildlife” advertisements and menus. In the meantime, the forest police cooperated with forestry and market authorities to comprehensively investigate wild animal farms, habitats, places with abundant wildlife, and high-risk places of poaching.
Furthermore, they allied with the traffic police, which checked on vehicles, passengers, and goods to investigate illegal wildlife trafficking. Criminals convicted of wildlife trafficking in China would face a five-year or ten-years set term of imprisonment, a fine, and confiscation of property.
So far, the forest police opened five wildlife’s criminal cases and seven wildlife administrative cases, arrested 12 criminals, called seven people into court, and confiscated 100 wild animals of diverse species.
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.
Ankang is a city in Shaanxi Province, Northwest China. It has a beautiful ecological environment and a wide variety of rare wild animals. A few days ago in Ankang, an owlet was caught in torrential rain. Fortunately, it received timely assistance from a good Samaritan.
According to Mr. Xie, the concerned citizen who helped the owlet, he found the owlet cowering on the side of the road. It was particularly windy that day, so he speculated that the owl might have fallen from the tree and become injured. Worried about the bird’s safety, Mr. Xie quickly brought the owlet to the local police station. The police then brought the owlet to the Wildlife Rescue Station of the Ankang Natural Forest Protection Center at once.
“After inspection, the owlet did not sustain any injuries, but it was still too young to fly. We would send it to the Bird Garden for the time being until it could return to the wild,” said Zhou Liping, the director of the Wildlife Rescue Station, “the professional rescue staff would take care of the owlet and then return it to nature.”‘Zhou told the reporter that the public’s awareness of wildlife protection had been gradually increasing. The city’s Wildlife Rescue Station receives five or six comparable cases every month.
Zhou advised the general public to take special care when helping wildlife. “If you found a wild animal with no noticeable abnormalities, try not to disturb it, and do not try to catch it. It may simply be resting. If you try to catch it, it might get hurt. If a wild animal has an obvious injury, such as a broken wing and a scratched body, you can send it to the local police station, or you can call our helpline directly, and we will help.”
To promote the wildlife protection, the Wildlife Rescue Station of the Ankang Natural Forest Protection Center has held many outreach activities such as “Love Birds Week” and “Spring of Science and Technology” this year.
As of June this year, the Wildlife Rescue Station has received more than 20 rescue calls from the public, and more than 20 wild animals have been rescued and released. Among them, there were national first-class protected animals such as the crested ibis and golden eagle.
In the wildlife conservation community of Jiangxi Province, China, Huang Xiaofeng has a reputation of a “living dictionary”. As the director of the Institute of Wildlife Conservation of the Jiangxi Provincial Department of Forestry, Huang has been dedicating herself to Jiangxi’s wildlife for 22 years. What’s more, she has also been applying her research results into agriculture to help local farmers overcome poverty.
“Jiangxi is a province with a huge forest coverage rate. It is rich in wildlife resources, but it falls behind the frontier research of wildlife conservation and nature reserves. I wanted to change this situation.” In 1997, Huang graduated from the Northeast Forestry University. Yearning the mountain range and the lush nature she revered since childhood, she gave up the opportunity to work for the National Department of Forestry and returned to her hometown, Jiangxi.
Working in the field of wildlife research, scientists often have to go deep into the mountains and befriend snakes, birds, and all other kinds of animals. Danger is always a part of the job. To obtain research data, Huang once traveled within the mountains for several months. To find animals, one must take the path that the animals have taken. Most of the time, she walks in the depths of the mountains where no trails can traverse.
Huang admitted that her line of work was not without challenges. However, once a new species or a rare species was discovered, the sense of accomplishment would instantly make one forget the pains. She never gave up. In 2005, Huang pioneered the province’s only scientific research institute specializing in wildlife conservation.
At the end of 2007, after learning that the Chinese merganser was spotted in Longhushan, she instantly jumped on the train, took the camera, the telescope, dry food, and the kettle and headed to the forest area. The Chinese merganser is very vigilant and difficult to observe at a close range. To record its activities in detail, Huang had to take cover on the riverbank in advance and watch the bird with a telescope for several hours at a time.
Huang also traveled all over the country to provide farmers with technical support. She participated in the development of various innovative animal and agroforestry production systems with applications of online platforms. The results of her research have been widely used in various regions, including Jiangxi, Hunan, and Hubei, helping numerous farmers in poverty gain economic growth.
A super rare albino panda was spotted in the Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve. This panda’s white hair, white claws, and red eyes had us wondering, did it forget to wear its natural black vest and smoky eye makeup? Or did it have such an excellent night’s sleep that it lost the signature dark circles around the eyes?
A wild infrared trigger camera captured the albino panda passing through the lush forest at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level. The picture clearly shows the unique morphological characteristics of this giant panda.
Based on these external features on the photo, experts concluded that the panda is an albino individual. Judging from the size, this is a sub-adult or young panda, about 1 to 2 years old.
According to Li Sheng, member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Bear Specialist Group and researcher at the Peking University School of Life Sciences, the phenomenon of “albinism” is found in various groups of vertebrate animals, but they are rare and usually due to genetic mutations. The bodies of albino individuals do not synthesize melanin, a dark pigment, so they appear white, yellowish white or pale yellow.
Missing pigments means that the animal is more likely to be found in the environment, and their body is more sensitive to direct sunlight. However, a single “albinism” mutation usually has no significant effect on the animal’s physical structure, activity, or reproduction.
The panda photographed by Wolong showed that there was an “albinism” gene in the giant panda population in Wolong. From the photo, experts confirmed that the individual is physically healthy with a steady gait, evidence that the mutation may not have affected the daily life of this panda.
The “albinism” mutation is a recessive gene that can be inherited. Each animal has two sets of genes from both parents. Only when the gene from both the parent and the mother are mutated, the individual will develop into an albino. Based on the current data, it is not yet possible to judge the gender of this individual.
When the albino panda and healthy wild individuals (the ordinary “black and white” pandas) that do not carry the mutated gene successfully produce offspring, the first generation of panda babies will still appear black and white, but they will carry an “albinism” gene.
When two individuals carrying the mutated gene reproduce, it is possible that both of the inherited genes may be mutated to produce an albino individual.
Whether the albino mutant gene will be further transmitted around the giant panda population of Wolong will also need to be observed through continuous field monitoring in the protected area.
To understand the composition and habitat utilization of the diverse species in the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, the Administration launched the monitoring and research work in 2018. In the various ecosystems of the protected area, scientists selected seven sample plots of 20 square kilometers, respectively. An infrared trigger camera was set up to monitor the distribution and dynamic changes of wild animals in each area.
This photo of the albino giant panda comes from one of the monitoring areas.
On April 16, the exhibition center of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg hosted a Chinese wildlife photo exhibit named “Nature Image China”, a second show after the first exhibit in Moscow. This exhibit aroused the Russian public’s interest in Chinese wild animals, as well as China’s recent achievements in wildlife conservation.
Mrs. Tamara, the Russian director of the exhibition, said at the opening ceremony, “Nowadays, the only way to address the issue of wildlife protection is to cooperate with the neighbor country. This is why we think it is vital to showcase the activities of the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and the best works of Chinese photographers. Though this exhibit, visitors can get to know China—a lush and natural land full of wonder, they can know the life of the nation’s rarest wild animals, and learn about the scientific research and conservation work on the wild animals in China.”
Many Russian media reported the opening ceremony. The CWCA’s mission is to protect rare animals such as panda, golden monkey, South China tiger, Amur tiger, Crested Ibis and Baiji, most of which are close to extinction.
The CWCA regularly invites famous photographers both from China and aboard to take photos of the ecosystem and organisms in China. The images will be displayed with the title of “Nature Image China” and added to the CWCA’s other project, the China Natural Image Library.
Organized by the committee of the “Primitive Russia” Festival and the CWCA, this exhibition shows the works of 49 photographers from China and other countries. The exhibit is on view from April 16 to May 28.
On the 50th Earth Day, the Shanghai Zoo opened a “Local Animal Park”. The animal inhabitants of the park include endangered and protected species such as otters, Chinese water deers, leopard cats, South China tigers, and Oriental storks. At the same time, local representative species such as hog badger, European badger, raccoon dogs, and mallards also live in the park.
An Area of More Than 320,000 Square Feet Produces a “Home” Environment
The Shanghai Zoo Local Animal Park began construction in August 2017. After the completion, the total area of the park is more than 320,000 square feet.
In the past, tourists always paid more attention to star animals such as pandas, lions, golden monkeys and so on. However, they don’t know much about the animals that live around the city. Shanghai is a city built on wetlands with abundant natural resources that support nearly 90% of the wildlife species in the Yangtze River Delta Area. “We define ‘local animals’ as wildlife that live in or near Shanghai, or animals that have historically been distributed but are now disappearing,” said a zoo official.
The Local Animal Park of Shanghai Zoo is the first exhibition in China with the title of “local animals”. It features the natural environment of Shanghai wetland and hilly forests. The park strives to simulate nature so that the animals can express natural behaviors.
The entire bird area is composed of wetland landscapes such as lakes, shoals, streams, and small islands. Such an environment not only helps show the natural behavior of birds but also attracts many local wild birds to enrich the ecosystem. In the area for the Chinese water deer and Reeves’s muntjac, the slopes, lawns, and bushes are large enough to meet the deers’ needs to hide and run. The small animal exhibition areas for raccoon dogs, European badgers, and hog badgers present their preferred living environment with shrubs and ponds, supplemented by various tree holes and caves.
“Artificial” Food Chain Enhances Animal Welfare
There are many aquatic plants, small fish, snails, and tadpoles in the wetland environment of the bird area. The zoo also built an “insect hotel” on the island with eco-friendly materials. The staff placed straw, dry branches, dead bark, and other materials in discarded wooden boxes to attract different insects. These insects and some aquatic plants also become food for the cranes. Meanwhile, the zookeeper will also occasionally put some mealworms and crickets on the island to let the cranes catch by themselves.
Attentive visitors will find tree branches of various shapes and sizes in the exhibition area. “They restore the living environment of animals in the wild and provide the animals with entertainment.” the staff revealed.
As people’s attention to the environment and the protection of ecosystems increases, a growing number of people recognize the importance of protecting the habitats of humans and animals. The Shanghai Zoo said that the zoo has been striving to change from a traditional zoo to a modern zoo for a long time. The missions of the zoo are to conduct wildlife science research, comprehensive environmental protection, popular science education, and advocation of ecological protection. The establishment of Local Animal Park is a major practice.
The year 2019 is the “Year of Justifications for Pangolins” for the Pangolin Protection Working Group of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF). Recently, after years of hard work, the Pangolin Group was entrusted by the relevant authorities to rescue and treat some of the pangolins that had been seized by the customs.
The pangolin is currently the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. To protect the pangolins, the Pangolin Group has been putting considerable effort into pangolin conservation for years.
The Pangolin Group aims to tackle illegal pangolin trafficking from multiple angles such as the frontline investigations of pangolin trafficking, requests for customs information disclosure, investigations of the medicinal use of pangolin products, illegal pangolin trade rescue operations, popularization of the science of pangolins, and speaking up about the issue on international platforms.
Due to some ancient misconceptions, China still has a substantial demand for pangolin products for both edible and medicinal purposes. In the early 1990s, pangolins native to China were hunted so much that the local pangolin population could no longer support the commercial demand. Since then, enormous numbers of pangolins and their products from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and even Africa have entered the Chinese market. According to a recent customs operation on March 29th this year, 103 live pangolins, 52 dead bodies, and 21.55 kilograms of scales were seized. The live pangolins would be in a worrying situation if they did not receive the care they needed on time.
For the emergency pangolin rescue operations, the Pangolin Group has sent staff to two regions, Guangxi and Yunnan, to select appropriate locations and establish rescue camps. At the same time, the staff has been actively communicating with both domestic and foreign experts to prepare for the rescue. Meanwhile, the Pangolin Group has also recruited on-site rescue volunteers and gathered information from the internet for potential locations for the camps. According to the leader of the Pangolin Group, appropriate camp locations must have necessary facilities, relatively convenient transportation, and forests with high numbers of termites nearby.
As of April 11, the Pangolin Group had found a suitable rescue camp location somewhere around Nanning City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The camp encloses a large forest and is only 3 kilometers away from an airport. Currently, the camp has been named the Nn041119PRC base. From now on, the Pangolin Group will be working vigorously to establish the second and the third rescue camp.