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December 23, 2011

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Authorities probe exotic, illegal pets

LOCAL wildlife-protection authorities are secretly investigating flower and pet markets where smuggled wildlife are sold as pets.

Officials said some of the animals, including pythons and lizards, are protected animals in China and are forbidden to be individually owned as pets.

The Shanghai Wildlife Protection Office said it has seen some smuggled animals being sold in local markets. In a big, multiple-store market selling plants and pets on Caoyang Road in Putuo District, pythons, chameleons and tortoises are available. Owners said the pythons were smuggled from South America, and they cost 5,500 yuan (US$867) to 30,000 yuan each.

Xia Yibo, a 26-year-old white-collar worker, has had a Burmese python for two years. He bought the young python for 2,000 yuan and designed a "comfortable home" for the peculiar pet.

"I know it's illegal to raise such pets, but in fact no one would come to stop you as long as your pet doesn't cause trouble to your neighbors," he said.

He said raising the large snake has become one of his biggest hobbies, and he expects to find a mate for his pet to observe the "gene mutation" of the python.

The wildlife-protection office said that under the country's law, no individual is allowed to raise first and second-class protected animals in China. One reason is that, as most of the animals are introduced from outside the country, they may cause damage to local ecological environments should they get out into the wild.

Additionally, some reptiles may attack and cause danger to people who don't know how to handle them.


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