The cultural appetite of Chinese for exotic and endangered animals has long fueled the global black market for such products and sustained an army of poachers who are forcing various species into extinction. This cultural taste is combined with China’s unrivaled anti-environmental record. Those elements came together this week when a Chinese vessel, the F/N Min Long Yu ran aground in a protected coral reef in the southwestern Philippines. Not only did the vessel damage the protected area, but it turned out to be illegally present in the area and loaded with more than 22,000 pounds of meat from a protected species, the pangolin or scaly anteater. The Chinese crew then allegedly tried to bride the Filipino coast guard to just look the other way — a common practice in China.
The ship was not allowed to be in the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island. However, what shocked the Coast guard most was the load of 400 boxes containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins each. Chinese believe that the toothless, insect-eating animals have special healing properties. Of course, the Chinese simply destroy populations and habitats rather than work to actually conserve such areas as the ultimate consumers of exotic animals.
The 2000 animals represent one of the largest single hauls of dead pangolins ever seized. Chinese government officials have already visited the 12 crewmen and could face up to 12 years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $300,000 for the poaching charge alone. However, the Chinese expansion into pristine areas and its proven disregard for the environmental protection promises even greater damage in the future.