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REPORT: South Africa traffics thousands of endangered wild animals to China in ‘corrupt and growing’ trade

Thousands of monkeys, cheetahs, tigers, rhinos, lions and meerkats have been trafficked from South Africa to Chinese circuses, theme parks, laboratories, zoos and safari parks.

JANE DALTON: South African traders with China are illegally selling thousands of wild animals threatened with extinction and endangered, under the guise of legal exports, according to an investigation. Monkeys have been stolen from the wild, and together with cheetahs, tigers, rhinos, lions and meerkats, they have been trafficked to circuses, theme parks, laboratories, zoos and “safari parks”, researchers found. Their report says at least 5,035 live wild animals were exported to China from 2016 to last year – “an extremely conservative” estimate – including chimpanzees and “a bewildering number” of giraffe, which “are also eaten in China”…

After arriving in China, where laws on captive-animal welfare are “non-existent”, South Africa’s animals often become untraceable or disappeared, suggesting they either died or were sold on, the report says… The South Africa-based groups Ban Animal Trading (BAT) and the charitable EMS Foundation, which examined wild animal exports from 2016-19, hit out at the supposed myth that legal trade crowds out the illegal trade and that animals are treated well in legal deals. “The legal and illegal trade are so intertwined as to be functionally inseparable,” the report states…

Zoos, as well as brokers and wholesale companies, are behind the trafficking of animals caught from the wild, going to destinations that are often pure fiction; most permits are in breach of regulations, and their verification largely absent, meaning most wild animal exports in 2016-19 were probably illegal, according to the report authors… The two groups examined the scope of South Africa’s trade with Beijing by visiting the claimed destinations… “Our investigation of theme parks and zoos revealed that nearly all trained primates are not bred in captivity, but were wild-caught and illegally traded out of Africa and Indonesia,” according to the study, which also says South African exotic primate breeders export hundreds of marmosets to Chinese laboratories or breeding farms each year.

And the trade in chimps violated several regulations, yet there were no repercussions, the groups said. More than 100 South African giraffes were sent to a Chinese zoo that holds the world record for having the highest number of hybrid animals “which have zero conservation value”… Demand in China for products made from all types of wildlife remains high… The report authors note that consumption of animals including tigers, threatening wild populations, is legitimised by captive breeding… Calling for “transformative changes” to prevent more wildlife exploitation, and prevent more coronaviruses, the study warns: “Nothing short of a global paradigm shift is necessary if we are to prevent further planetary disruption that unleashes Covid-type viruses”. SOURCE…

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