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August 17, 2011

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4 detained 'for buying protected lizards'

FOUR people have been detained for allegedly buying endangered Chinese crocodile lizards on the Internet, the Huangpu District Prosecutors' Office said yesterday.

The suspects, all in their 20s, could face jail sentences of up to 10 years for purchasing the protected semi-aquatic reptiles.

One suspect, surnamed Yang, said they bought the animals for 500 yuan (US$78.25) each from south China's Guangdong Province via online instant messenger in June.

They planned to keep two as pets and sell the third, Yang told the prosecutors.

Police apprehended the group following a tip-off.

A prosecutor said the suspects had broken China's Criminal Law, no matter whether they planned to keep or sell the animals.

People can be jailed for up to 10 years if they illegally buy, transport or sell nationally protected species or products made from them, according to the law.

Around 1 million people, own exotic pets - such as snakes, lizards and monkeys - on China's mainland, many of which are protected species, according to unofficial online statistics.

More than 10 online trade platforms offering protected animals can be found through popular search engines, a Shanghai Daily investigation found.

Despite it being listed as first-class protected animal, one web user was selling a pygmy loris, a rare primate, for 1,000 yuan on an online forum.

"Many people claim online that they have small pets to be adopted, but they are actually involved in illegal animal trading," the China Small Animal Protection Association said on its microblog.


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