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China offers buyouts to wildlife farmers in response to pandemic

By Wildlife Trade No Comments
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay | May 20, 2020

Read the original article here.

The Chinese government is offering to buy out animals on wildlife farms, and to help farmers change their agricultural practices, in an effort to reduce the consumption of wild animals. This step could have big implications for the management of wildlife in China in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

The novel coronavirus, which has affected more than 82,000 people in China and nearly 5 million people worldwide, is believed to have originated from a wet market selling wildlife in Wuhan, China. On Feb. 24, the Chinese government responded by banning the trade and consumption of wild animals, and on April 9, it released a draft list of animals that could be legally farmed for food and clothing. The majority of listed species were domesticated animals like pigs, cattle and sheep, although it had a separate category for “special livestock” such as reindeer, alpacas and emus that could be farmed for food, and minks, Arctic foxes and raccoon dogs that could be farmed for fur.

Caged bamboo rats. Image by arcibald / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

Some wild animals may continue to be legally farmed, but the Chinese government will offer payment to farmers of at least 14 wild species , including king ratsnakes (Elaphe carinata), bamboo rats (Rhizomyini spp.), Asian palm civet cats (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), Chinese muntjac deer (Muntiacus spp.), and Chinese bamboo partridges (Bambusicola thoracicus). The highest level of compensation is allotted for the Chinese muntjac deer — 2,457 yuan ($346) per individual —  while each Chinese bamboo partridge will be bought for 57 yuan ($8).

While this buyout agreement was initially presented to farmers in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, where the majority of wildlife farming takes place, farmers in other provinces, including Guangdong, Yunnan and Guangxi, are being offered similar deals, according to Steve Blake, China’s chief representative at WildAid.

“There are several thousand wildlife breeding operations in each province, especially in some of the less economically developed provinces in the northeast and southern China,” Blake told Mongabay. “These operations are obviously on varying scales and for different uses, but the numbers are pretty staggering. The industry is valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The fact that China is moving so quickly to clean up such a vast and complicated industry is really astounding.”

The buyouts aren’t necessarily compulsory, but wildlife farmers will face obligations, according to Peter Li, China policy specialist of the Humane Society International (HSI).

A newly hatched Chinese bamboo partridge. Image by Ishikawa Ken / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

“Buyout is a way for the breeders to exit the farming which was encouraged by the government,” Li told Mongabay in an email. “If the farmers do not want to accept the buyout arrangements, they are completely free to stop the farming operation by themselves. However, according to the buyout plan, the farmers cannot farm these animals for food any more.”

More species may be added to the buyout plan, which is only in draft form right now, Blake said.

“This first list of 14 species is the first batch of species to be listed for compensation, probably because they are more commonly bred,” he said. “Since it’s listed as ‘the first batch,’ then there should be more to follow.”

Some farmers will lose their livelihoods, but they will receive government assistance to help them transition to growing vegetables, fruits, teas, or herbs for traditional Chinese medicine, or to even farm other animal species like pigs and chickens.

A caged civet cat. Image by Wikimedia Commons. Photo as published by Mongabay.

“Many of these farmers were operating these breeding facilities as local poverty alleviation projects, and so this transition for them into other production is a continuance of these poverty alleviation projects,” Blake said. “These are ongoing and not just a one-time deal. But again, this definitely varies by location, county by county.”

Once the animals are purchased by the government, they face one of three fates, according to HSI. In certain circumstances, they will be released back into the wild, but most animals will be allotted to industries such as zoos and research facilities, or simply culled — and this has animal welfare advocates concerned.

“Culling programs in China and other countries in Asia can also involve truly barbaric methods such as live burial, and so we really hope to see the Chinese authorities mandating against such cruelty,” Li said in a statement. “The wild animal breeding farms and factories facing closure and transition must not sacrifice animal welfare in an effort to implement the new changes.”

There is also a big loophole in the buyout plan: farmers will be able to continue farming wild animals for traditional Chinese medicine, the fur industry or entertainment purposes. In the province of Guangxi, snake farmers, with the help of the government, are already repurposing their animals for the medicine and beauty industries, which will prevent them from having to shut down their farms, according to one news source.

A Chinese muntjac deer. Image by nesihonsu / Flickr. Photo as published by Mongabay.

While the buyout plan leaves room for improvement, both Li and Blake say they believe it can help lead China away from wildlife consumption, and promote better management of wildlife in the country.

“By subsidising wildlife breeders to transition to alternative livelihoods, these provinces are demonstrating global leadership on this issue, which other provinces and countries must now follow,” Li said. “Chinese farmers not only have an opportunity to leave a trade that poses a direct threat to human health — something that can no longer be tolerated in light of COVID — but also to transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as growing plant foods popular in Chinese cuisine.”

“These new regulations provide much needed clarity on what is permissible and improvements to the permitting process,” Blake said. “There has also been notable concern throughout society here for the breeders affected by this, so this compensation scheme is also very important to help them transition industries rather than revert to trying to sell these products illegally.

“The amount of attention and resolve that the government, media, and society in China have paid to the wildlife consumption issue in the wake of this pandemic is unprecedented,” Blake added. “There’s not only much improved policy measures resulting from this, but also I think public perceptions on the need to end some of this risky wildlife consumption is going to be long-lasting.”

Banner image caption: Civet cats. Image by KL Wong / Flickr.

 

Animal interaction stopped – The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve says NO to cub petting

By Conservation No Comments
Brent Lindeque, Good Things Guy | September 9, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind will no longer be offering cub petting to the public, with immediate effect.

For 30 years, the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve has shared its love of wildlife with South Africans and visitors from across the world. But times have changed. Under the new ownership of the Bothongo Group, the reserve is refocusing its efforts on animal welfare.

“As new owners, we have acknowledged that what was acceptable in 1990 when the reserve first opened to the public, may no longer be acceptable in 2019,” says Jessica Khupe, Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve Brand Manager.

“Human beings have always wanted to get up close and personal with wild animals,” says Khupe.

Understandable as this is, studies have shown that it is not good for animal welfare.

Original photo as published by Goodthingsguy.com. (Photo: Supplied)

“Recent campaigns have highlighted the global problem of cub petting and unscrupulous operators both locally and abroad. Simply put, it is not necessary to touch an animal to connect with the importance of wildlife conservation. We’d also like to make it very clear that we are utterly opposed to the abhorrent canned hunting and lion bone trade.”

Recently appointed Chief Operations Officer of the reserve, Mike Fynn, explains: “Breeding and rearing animals for the purpose of cub petting and interaction is not only undesirable from an animal welfare perspective, but it’s also not a sustainable business model. From now on, we will focus on educating the public about wildlife and the importance of conservation. This is why, with immediate effect, we choose to put a stop to cub petting at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve and sincerely hope that other facilities responsibly follow suit.”

Over the past few months, while under new stewardship, the reserve has initiated a three-year plan to upgrade all of its public facilities, habitats and wildlife enclosures, which will be remodelled around the welfare and wellbeing of its animals. Many of them are species that are endangered, thanks to human activity and habitat loss.

According to Fynn, the reserve team will dedicate themselves to a new internal mantra of being a ‘nurture reserve’.

In addition, he says they will commit to the following:

· We will strive to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and contented animal collection, and we will work with local and international institutions and bodies ensuring that we play our part in managing the long-term survival of endangered and threatened species.

· We pledge not to sell or exchange any of our animal family, especially our lions unless it’s to a reputable accredited facility and/or licensed wildlife institution.

· We will breed animals only if this serves a conservation purpose.

As animal lovers, we understand how charismatic African wildlife is. But the truth is that our love for our animals may inadvertently harm them, even though we don’t mean to.

“To those of our visitors who are disappointed that they can no longer cuddle a lion cub at our reserve: this is the right thing to do,” says Khupe.

She adds that she’s excited about this new journey: “We take the opportunity to re-welcome the greater public, wildlife stakeholders, tour operators and travel agents to actively support our reserve as it evolves into a BIG, must-see destination, that provides an authentic and informative wild animal experience for generations to come. Our wildlife family now has a voice again.”