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July 29, 2010

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Center aims to take wildlife off the menu

LOCAL wildlife protection authorities have strengthened inspection on illegal wildlife transport on highways, to prevent rare animals ending up on restaurant tables.

The Shanghai Wildlife Conservation and Management Center said yesterday that since summer began, officials had seized several trucks smuggling hundreds of kilograms of wildlife on highways in Jinshan and Jiading districts.

Frogs and toads were set free later while snakes and pangolins, or anteaters, were sent to the Shanghai Zoo. Most of such wildlife is protected and vital to the ecological environment, officials said.

"Restaurants are too tricky," said Pei Enle, director of the center. "When the trucks were seized, no single restaurant would admit it purchased the animals, and it's hard for us to go deeper into the cases."

Officials said the law on wildlife protection was far from perfect and restaurants selling such animals wouldn't receive severe punishment.

Accordingly, eating such wild creatures was popular in the city every summer, the season when such animals mature.

"We can fine a restaurant about 100 yuan (US$14.75) for selling a snake, which is only a drop in the bucket compared to the profit they make," said Zhang Chenjie, an official with the center's Minhang District branch.

"What we can do is to promote wildlife protection at communities," he added.

The center has established a team of volunteers in Putuo District who will report when restaurants are found selling such animals. The volunteer system is expected to be expanded throughout the city.

Eating such animals can sometimes be dangerous. A recent case involved a local woman admitted to hospital after she was poisoned from eating fried toads.


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