From Crisis to Opportunity: China Acts Quickly to Protect Wildlife

The Covid-19 crisis has prompted us to rethink the relationship between man and nature. The protection of biodiversity, including wildlife, and public health issues are receiving increased attention around the world. In response, China has stepped up the pace of wildlife protection over the past year, which has included the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passing a decision to ban the trade in wildlife as food and to tighten its crackdown on illegal wildlife trade (“Decision”).

To support the China National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), the country’s key wildlife protection agency and a key contributor to the wildlife law amendment process, and to explore effective ways to protect wildlife and safeguarding public health through wildlife management, NRDC conducted a policy review on the management of the global wild meat trade and epidemic control practices. The NRDC also assisted the NFGA in the national policy development process by providing recommendations on amendments to the wildlife protection law, such as expanding the scope of animals protected by law beyond wildlife that is simply “rare or endangered”, and making additional recommendations to the revised People’s Congress draft during the public comment period. This included the establishment of a scientific and transparent management system for wildlife stocks in the revised draft for confiscated wildlife and their products.

In addition, the NRDC jointly launched a series of workshops on wildlife law and governance in China with partners in March 2021. This series aims to create a professional platform for experts to exchange points of view. view and provide legal and regulatory recommendations to policy makers on wildlife protection. At the recent launch, which was also the first event in this series, officials and experts reviewed the 2020 Wildlife Law and discussed the state of policymaking on wildlife issues in China. . In addition to the aforementioned ruling, here are some of the actions China has taken on wildlife trade over the past year:

  • Completion of the revision of the “Law on the prevention of animal epidemics”1
  • Launch of the revision of the “Law on the protection of wild animals”2
  • Addition of over 500 wildlife species to the “National List of Protected Species” which is an annex to the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, including the Yangtze Pangolin and Finless Porpoise
  • Introduction of a 10-year fishing ban in the Yangtze River3
  • Addition of three new wildlife crimes to the “Criminal Law Amendment”: illegal hunting, buying, transporting and selling of wild terrestrial animals; destroy nature reserves; and illegally introduce, release and discard invasive alien species
  • Strengthen wildlife law enforcement and market surveillance, including Operation Cyber ​​Sword which investigated online social platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and video sites and crackdown on publications highlighting feature illegal hunting, or killing and abuse of wildlife, and videos or live broadcasts that feature wildlife products
  • Providing full government attention and financial support to the 140,000 poor from disadvantaged groups affected by the recent reduction in wild animal husbandry activity. Over 90% of the compensation for these farmers has been achieved4

Rapid policy progress has been made in wildlife protection over the past year, but challenges remain, such as transforming livelihoods for farmers previously involved in the livestock sector. edible animals. An important example comes from the case of the bamboo rat, whose trade was banned after the Covid-195 epidemic last year. Licensed bamboo rat farming was once a rural poverty reduction project vigorously promoted by local governments such as those in Guizhou Province. It was estimated that 100,000 people in Guangxi were engaged in the bamboo rat breeding business, which produced a production value of 2 billion yuan.6. Once the decision was made, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced a list of approved captive farm animals. Bamboo rats weren’t on the list, so the whole business came to an end.

Professor Qin Tianbao, Director of the Research Institute for Environmental Law at Wuhan University, stressed during the recent NRDC Workshop on Wildlife Law and Governance that: “The formulation of a law is based on science with a balance between different interest groups. If one is to be given priority to replace or even sacrifice the other, a reasonable mechanism must be devised to compensate for the latter. As we rethink our relationship with nature, we need to keep this balance in mind. We must put an end to destructive activities of wildlife and harmful to human health, while offering affected populations a transition to other activities that enhance ecological conservation for greater harmony between people and nature.

The revision of the law on the protection of wildlife remains in the legislative process. We hope that future discussions of the NRDC Wildlife Law and Governance workshop series will generate collective wisdom and important ideas for the final amendment.


1. Global Times: January 25, 2021 Amended Animal Disease Control Law prohibits slaughter of livestock in markets https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202101/1213801.shtml
2. Xinhua News Agency: February 12, 2020 Focus on China: Stay away from wildlife, China takes sustained action against illegal wildlife trade http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-02/12/c_138777165.htm
3. Xinhua News Agency: January 2, 2021 Focus on China: Ten-year fishing ban begins in Yangtze River http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-01/02/c_139635401.htm
4. Daily Renmin: 01 December 2020 National Forest and Grass Administration: Compensation work for fasting wild animal breeders more than 90% complete http://env.people.com.cn/n1/2020/1201/c1010-31951122.html
5. China Daily: October 12, 2020 Phasing out captive breeding of 45 wild animals https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202010/12/WS5f83ab40a31024ad0ba7df85.html
6. China News: 06 April 2020 18 million bamboo rats sentenced to death suspended: the livelihoods of 100,000 farmers and 2 billion yuan in business https://www.chinanews.com/cj/2020/04-06/9148704.shtml from China News Weekly on April 06, Flight 942


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