One of the biggest news stories of this year has been the novel coronavirus, a virus that has killed roughly 1600 people. The virus likely originated from bats and was transferred to humans via pangolins sold at a wildlife market in Wuhan, which caters to the demand.
In response to the outbreak, China has issued a temporary ban on the selling of wildlife. Many of the younger generation favor making the ban permanent, but a lot of sellers plan to get back into the industry once the ban gets raised.
“I’d like to sell once the ban is lifted,” said Gong Jian, who runs a wildlife store online and operates shops in China’s autonomous Inner Mongolia region. “People like buying wildlife. They buy for themselves to eat or give as presents because it is very presentable and gives you face.”
The Chinese National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) have taken to tightening regulation on the sellers. They are responsible for both licensing the legal farming and sale of wild animals as well as overseeing breeding programs for pandas, tigers, and other endangered species.
“The state forestry bureau has long been the main force supporting wildlife use,” said Peter Li, a China Policy Specialist for the Humane Society International. “It insists on China’s right to use wildlife resources for development purposes.”
However, there are problems with the way the NFGA regulates the trade in wildlife. In short, there are a lot of people that use the licenses as a cover for illegal activity, breeding protected animals for consumer consumption rather than to be released into the wild as part of conservation efforts.
“They just use this premise to do illegal trading,” Zhou Jinfeng, head of China’s Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, told Reuters. “There are no real pangolin farms in China, they just use the permits to do illegal things.”
“We are in a sun-setting business,” said Xiang Chengchuan, a wholesale wildlife store owner in the landlocked eastern Anhui province. “Few people eat dogs now, but it was popular 20 years ago.”
“I will resume selling once the policy allows us, but now I have no idea how long it (the ban) will last.”