28 May 2007
Cargo of threatened species discovered off Chinese coast
The cargo of a vessel abandoned off Qingzhou island in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong last week contained 5,000 of the world’s rarest animals — including pangolins, Asian giant turtles and a variety of lizards — seemingly destined for restaurants. Most of the animals were alive, though 21 bear paws were also found wrapped in newspaper
The Guangzhou Daily reported that the cargo was found by local fishermen, made suspicious by a strange smell coming from the vessel. The area in which it was floating adrift is on the infamous but lucrative smuggling route between the endangered jungles of south-east Asia and the restaurant tables of southern China.
The animals, many of which close to dehydration, were taken to the Guangdong Wild Animal Protection Centre. According to the local media, they included 31 pangolins, 44 leatherback turtles, 2,720 monitor lizards and 1,130 Brazilian turtles.
All of these species are in danger of extinction and banned from international trade. All are openly served in restaurants, however, and sold at markets in Guangdong province. A recent police raid in a Guanghzou restaurant led to the confiscation of 118 pangolins, 60kg of snakes and 400kg of toads.
According to wildlife conservation groups, China provides the main market for the illegal trade in exotic species. Pangolins in particular are in great demand because their meat is considered a delicacy.
Last year the Beijing Science and Technology Daily asked a Guangdong chef how to cook the animal.
‘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.’
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