China has added 517 species to its list of protected wild animals, part of its campaign to end the wild animal trade and destruction of nature. A total of 980 wild animals are now under state protection.
The endangered large-spotted civet and several species of birds that have gone down in numbers in recent years are among the animals added to the list.
Those who hunt and traffic the animals on the list face fines and even prison sentences for “level one” protected species, such as the critically endangered panda, pangolin and Yangtze finless porpoise.
China has been trying to crack down on the wildlife trade since January 2020, after the first cases of COVID-19 were linked to a wildlife market in the city of Wuhan that sold exotic animal species.
Scientists speculate that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could have crossed into humans from bats through an intermediary species, with pangolins often identified as a potential candidate.
China announced plans for a permanent nationwide ban on wildlife trade and trafficking in February, but it left big loopholes for the captive breeding of animals traded for fur or used in traditional Chinese medicine.
In the first nine months of 2020, China prosecuted more than 15,000 people for wildlife crimes, up 66% from the same period a year earlier, state prosecutors said.