Noah’s Ark of rare animals

May 30, 2007 at 3:00 am 1 comment

Photo by Kim in South AfricaThis is a shocker of a story. I can’t imagine the sorts of cruel morons who would be doing this to poor animals. A deserted rickety wooden boat has been found drifting off the coast of China with (wait for it), 5,000 (yes, you read correctly) rare, endangered, hunted, smuggled animals (take your pick) on board. Most of the animals were dead or close to death, having succumbed to dehydration under the hot sun.

I can hardly bring myself to tell you what was discovered:

  • 21 bear paws wrapped up in newspaper
  • pangolins, Asian giant turtles and lizards, crushed and squashed inside crates
  • 1,130 Brazilian turtles
  • 2,720 monitor lizards

And what was the destination of this vessel? The restaurants and markets of China’s southern province of Guangdong, which is famous for its exotic cuisine. China is the main market for illegally traded exotic species and China’s appetite is growing, which only further threatens populations of endangered animals and impacts on global conservation efforts. I’ve reported on this barbarity before.

Pangolins are apparently in great demand because their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are thought to help mothers breastfeed their babies. And as a result, the pangolin populations of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been wiped out. The pangolin’s last habitats are in Java, Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula but as illegal smugglers and hunters move south, these populations are under serious threat.

China’s vigilence of illegal trade and activity is slack to say the least. Fines are usually so minimal that traders happily risk being fined as the rewards are so great. The price of 1kg of pangolin served in Guangdong or Yunnan is between 600 and 800 yuan per kilo (between £43 and £50). One recent raid on a restaurant in Guanghzou turned up 118 pangolins, 60kg of snakes and 400kg of toads. A waitress was reported as saying that the pangolin “ very big – about 10kg.We serve it in hotpot. That is the tastiest way.

And then there’s the way these poor defenseless creatures are killed: “We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards.”

Frankly, I am at a loss as to what to say. I really can’t believe that people treat fellow species in this manner. Whilst we’re busy worrying about global warming, we should be placing rigorous sanctions on illegal trading and perhaps putting traders on the same sort of rickety vessel floating abandoned under a boiling hot sun.

I often wonder what the world will look like in 100 or 500 years’ time. I used to be optimistic about the future; now I think that archaeologists will dig up dusty DVDs and old films of animals such as cheetahs, tigers, pangolins and so on; people will gather around to watch, perplexed, because they’ve never in their lives seen such beautiful creatures – because their world is devoid of rich vegetation and diversity of animals. And they’ll ask pointedly: what were 21st Century people thinking? how could they eat fellow species and kill them in such a depraved manner? they will think of us rather like I suppose we think of Neanderthals – brutish, barbaric, primitive, low intelligence. Actually, that’s being pretty unfair to the Neanderthals!


Entry filed under: Education and Awareness, Endangered species, Environment.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. World of Science  |  July 29, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Endangered pangolins (scaly anteaters) have been heavily hunted in China to supply a large demand for food, particularly fetus soup


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