Harsher punishment essential to protect wildlife

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/10 23:28:39

Seven Chinese tourists were fined 105,000 yuan ($15,950) on Sunday for chasing a herd of endangered Tibetan antelopes in off-road vehicles during the National Day holiday. The photography chase in a national nature reserve prompted waves of criticism with many Internet users arguing the punishment is too lenient to deter.

Tibetan antelopes were pushed to the brink of extinction by rampant poaching for their shahtoosh, used in luxury shawls. When chased, they may run at their top speed and die of exhausted cardiovascular function. Fortunately no antelopes were injured during the chase that lasted more than a minute. Forestry authorities acted immediately to catch and punish the perpetrators in accordance with relevant regulations and laws.

But as many Internet users commented, the perpetrators must be economically advantaged to drive around Tibet and a 15,000 yuan fine for each may be no big deal to them. What's worse, some tourists desperate for excitement might even be willing to pay this kind of money up front simply to chase antelopes. In this sense, a light fine looks less a punishment than the cost of misbehavior. In fact, Tibetan antelopes are often disturbed in the natural reserve of Hoh Xil, probably due to the low cost of violation. Most cases go unreported. To deter such behavior demands heightened attention and harsher punishment. Criminal detention, or even imprisonment may be considered for a serious violation. 

Some progress has been made. Since taking office in late 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has attached high importance to environmental and wildlife protection and intensified punishments for whoever violates regulations including the relevant officials.

In July, the central government punished senior officials including the vice governor of Northwest China's Gansu Province for serious environmental violations in the Qilian Mountains national nature reserve. But more still needs to be done.

The chase has once again reminded people of the dos and don'ts when it comes to protecting the environment and the animals that live there. Apart from Tibetan antelope, China has hundreds of listed animals that need to be protected. In addition to enforcement by wildlife authorities, there should be more input through various campaigns to better inform the public how to protect wildlife. It is not just the job of government, but more importantly the responsibility of each individual to ensure that animals can live under deserved protection.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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