The prosecution of wildlife crime in China has elevated sharply after the COVID-19 outbreak

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Sham Shui Po district of Hong Kong

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China prosecuted more than 15,000 people for wildlife-related crimes in the first nine months of the year, up 66% from 2019, prosecutors said when authorities issued a ruling following the COVID-19 outbreak Wanted to enforce a ban on human trafficking.

The Supreme People's Prosecutor's Office said in a statement posted on its website Monday that nearly 7,000 of the total arrests concerned violations of fishing restrictions. Around 4,000 people have been prosecuted for illegal hunting and 3,000 for illegally buying, transporting and selling endangered wildlife products.

Prosecutors warned that much of the illegal wildlife business has shifted online and traders are using e-commerce platforms to sell banned wildlife. The trade in "exotic pets" is also a growing challenge.

China's lucrative and poorly regulated wildlife trade came into the spotlight in January after the first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan city was caused by a wildlife products market.

Scientists believe the novel coronavirus originated from horseshoe bats and may have infected humans via an intermediate species, with pangolins identified as a potential suspect.

China's lawmakers issued a resolution in February promising to ban the sale and consumption of wild animals. However, the new legislation is expected to include exemptions for the fur trade and the traditional Chinese medicine trade.

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