Wildlife trade, consumption and conservation awareness
in southwest China
Li Zhang ÆNing Hua ÆShan Sun
Received: 11 August 2007 / Accepted: 11 March 2008 / Published online: 21 March 2008
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Abstract Commercial trade in wildlife is the major cause of species endangerment and a
main threat to animal welfare in China and its neighboring countries. Driven by con-
sumptive use for food and traditional medicine, the large volume of both legal and illegal
trade in wildlife has caused great destruction to ecosystems and pushed many species to the
brink of extinction. Data gathered from trading hubs at ports, boundary markets, city
markets and stores, indicates the large amount of wildlife traded in the region of Guangxi,
Yunnan and Qinghai provinces, a direct result of the numerous wildlife markets available.
In a survey distributed in various trading places, while about half of the respondents agreed
that wildlife should be protected, 60% of them had consumed wildlife at some point in the
last 2 years. The results also indicated that law and regulation on wildlife trade control is
insufﬁcient. Wildlife trade controls are very limited because of bias on the utilization of
wildlife as a natural resource to be exploited by the government agencies. The survey also
shows that the current situation of wildlife consumption in key cities in China is serious,
especially the consumption for food. The main consumption groups in China are male and
young people with high education levels and good incomes. The key in public awareness
publicity and education is to give them more information on the negative impacts of
wildlife consumption and knowledge of protection.
Keywords Wildlife trade Consumption Conservation awareness
L. Zhang (&)
College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
L. Zhang S. Sun
Conservation International, Beijing, China
International Fund for Animal Welfare, Beijing, China
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
The concept of modern wild animal protection was introduced to the Chinese from abroad.
China’s trade of edible and medicinal wildlife dates back thousands of years. ‘‘The skin
can be worn, feathers can be used, meat is edible, and organs can be used for drugs’’—
Throughout Chinese history, wild animals have been viewed as an important source of
food and income. From a traditional Chinese perspective, as the same as many other
countries, wild animals are a resource to be exploited, not something to be protected for
their intrinsic value.
In recent years, with the development of a consumer economy, people’s demand for
wild animal products has grown substantially. The markets for consumption are increasing,
and using wild animals as pets, for medicine and health care, and as food has become a
status symbol and a fashionable lifestyle pursued by many (Zhou 1997; Morgan 2000;
Wang et al. 2001a; Nooren and Claridge 2001). This robust market demand means
lucrative proﬁts for traders, providing a strong incentive for more people to join the trade.
As a result, wild animal trade has expanded quickly, and illegal wild animal trafﬁcking has
increased sharply. Trafﬁcking, which involves excessive capture and non-sustainable uti-
lization of wild species, poses a severe threat to many endangered species (Li et al. 1996;
Li and Li 1997). Large quantities of wild animals are now on the verge of extinction as a
result of commercial development, such as Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and
tiger (Panthera tigris) (TRAFFIC Southeast Asia 2004; S. Wu 2007, private communi-
cation; Dinerstein et al. 2007). As a conservative estimate, tens of millions of wild animals
are shipped each year regionally and internationally destined to southern China for food or
East and Southeast Asia for use in traditional medicine (WWF 2001). According to the
third annual report released by the Biodiversity Working Group of the China Council for
International Cooperation on Environment and Development (BWG/CCICED), nearly
70% of mammal species in China are endangered because of hunting and habitat
destruction, with the primary threat being excessive hunting (BWG/CCICED 1999). In the
report entitled ‘‘Wildlife Trade in Southern China’’ released in 1995, the BWG pointed out
that the increase in wildlife trade on Mainland China in recent years could be attributed to
four main of causes:
(i) China’s reform and economic growth has resulted in an increasingly prosperous
population in the region who can afford expensive wild animals, increasing the
incentive to trap animals.
(ii) The improved infrastructure within China results in the availability of much sought
after ‘rarities’ from distant or remote areas.
(iii) The recent opening up of borders between China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia
(e.g. Vietnam and Laos) has provided a new source of wild animals for the trade.
(iv) The growing popularity of keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets in western
countries, and more recently in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, constitutes a
substantial market outside China’s mainland. Thus reptiles and amphibians are
imported to Hong Kong for re-export and, to a lesser extent, for local sale.
Wild animal trafﬁcking worldwide is estimated to be worth more than US$8 billion a
year globally, second only to the trade in illegal drugs, with proﬁt margins which are more
attractive than illegal arms dealing (Sain-Ley-Berry 2000). Adding to the problem, wild
animal trade monitoring is very weak in China, making it difﬁcult to assess the impact on
wild animals domestically; relevant data obtained from consumers are also very scarce.
Meanwhile, the coexistence of legal trade and illegal trade makes it very difﬁcult to
1494 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
monitor wild animal trade and distinguish which products are entering the market legally
and which are being smuggled in illegally (Li and Zhang 2003). Identifying animal species
traded at the sales terminals, estimating trading frequency, identifying species under
protection or rare species, and assembling data on the countries and routes involved in
trafﬁcking are complex tasks that require support from a wide variety of sources (Mill et al.
1995; Zhou 1997; Xie 1999; Wan 2004).
Challenges faced by organizations and government agencies working to combat illegal
wildlife trade are vast: few key provinces house systematic wildlife trade management
systems; enforcement authorities lack legal enforcement power; not enough data are
available to sustain local biodiversity conservation; and a scientiﬁc monitoring and eval-
uation system has not yet been established to support conservation efforts (Lee et al. 2004).
In addition, limited data on wildlife trade are not efﬁciently shared and utilized between
relevant protection and decision-making departments. Another alarming trend is that the
cross border trade in mammals, birds and reptiles between China and neighboring countries
has reached a level previously unmatched in history, substantially affecting wildlife
populations (Li et al. 1996; Yang et al. 2000; Nooren and Claridge 2001; Wang et al.
2001a,b; Lee et al. 2004). As a result, we are working to establish a database and mon-
itoring platform on wildlife trade which can be used to enhance the communication among
government administrative departments, decision-making departments and related orga-
nizations, improve monitoring and evaluation methods, strengthen law enforcement, and
advance management and control on wildlife trade. The aim of this project is to eliminate
commercial exploitation of animals by creating a sound public and democratic environ-
ment for the public to voice their opinions on wildlife consumption and protection issues.
Over-exploitation and cross-border wildlife trade are directly related to the fast growing
Chinese market which has inﬂated the price of wildlife products, making it more proﬁtable
to engage in the trade. Many species of plants and animals are now in danger of becoming
extinct because of over-exploitation, like liquorices (Glycyrriza Uralensis) in Gansu and
some other provinces in west China, birds and arethusa (Dendrobium spp.) in Guangxi
and Yunnan, matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) and other wildlife population in Sichuan
and Yunnan. Such threats may inﬂuence the administrations and individuals in some key
departments of Forestry, Environment Protection, Agriculture, Tourism and Livestock
Farming into taking action. Other stakeholders include local residents who depend on these
natural resources, pharmaceutical manufacturers who want a sustainable medicine supply,
and decision-makers who deal with local and global economies.
The border area where Yunnan and Guangxi connect to Vietnam, Laos and Burma is of
particular concern. Forests growing in the border area support 70% of wildlife population
(Li et al. 1996; Yang et al. 2000). Problems exist in this area for all parties seeking to
control illegal wildlife trade; transportation is inconvenient, the economy is undeveloped,
law enforcement is weak, and wildlife management staff are few. Traditionally, hunting
was a main source of income for local residents. With the border trade opening and more
frequent cross border trade, illegal wildlife trade is increasing, posing a serious threat to the
species which can easily be transported across the international boundary (Lau et al. 1995;
Li and Li 1997). Poaching and smuggling in Qinghai and Tibet is also a serious problem.
Local residents heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihood, but lack awareness
of the need to protect these resources. Local government authorities lack efﬁcient wildlife
management and law enforcement capacity and are in need of training (Wan 2004; Lee
et al. 2004). Over recent years, people’s demand for wildlife has grown in some of China’s
developed cities, especially coastal cities along the border. As in other regions of China,
eating wildlife has become a fashionable lifestyle and symbol of elite status.
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1495
Wildlife trade survey in key regions in Qinghai, Yunnan and Guangxi Province
Regions and routes (see Fig. 1)
(1). Guangxi Province
A. Survey regions for border trade. Three of the 10 most important border trade
ports, Dongxing, Puzhai and Nongyao-Nonghuai were chosen to carry out
targeted, in-depth research. Another two ports, Aidian and Shuikou, were
chosen for more general research.
B. Survey regions for domestic trade. Nanning was identiﬁed as city for focused
research. Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi, is an important circulation
channel for cross-border trade and a market for biology resources from both
Guangxi and Yunnan.
(2) Qinghai Province
Cocoxili and Sanjiangyuan region
Xining and Huangnan region
(3) Yunnan Province
A survey was conducted in ﬁve border regions and 10 counties (but not in Simao,
Lincang region or Wenshan prefecture). Extensive research was carried out through
three separate routes:
Fig. 1 Map of the key regions in China where ﬁeld surveys were conducted
1496 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
A. West line (West Yunnan on the China-Burma border)—covers Wanding and Ruli of
Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Tengchong and Baoshan of Baoshan
region, Liuku of Nu River Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Dali of Dali Prefecture.
B. Hekou line (South Yunnan on the China-Vietnam border)—covers Hekou and
Mengzi of Honghe Prefecture.
C. Banna line (South Yunnan on the China-Laos and China-Vietnam border)—
covers three cities and the towns of Xishuang Banna Autonomous Prefecture.
(4) A public poll on wildlife consumption and protection awareness was carried out in
Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Chengdu and Kunming.
The study used a structured questionnaire and face-to-face interviews in Beijing,
Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Kunming, with at least 250 successful samples
per city. Interviewees included local self-identiﬁed animal lovers, former hunters,
high school biology teachers, rangers, herb collectors, ﬁeld research staff, nature
reserve and forestry center staff and urban residents. Questions focused on the change
in numbers and species of wildlife, as well as threats (special emphasis was given to
the situation facing key species like tiger, bear, snakes and turtles etc.). The total
valid sample size of the interview is 1,352 individuals.
(2) Field and market investigation
The investigation was carried out by: observing the animals and their tracks,
including footprints, footprint traces, lying traces, feathers, hairs, feces and other
marks; investigating the living condition and threats wildlife are facing; recording the
quantities and species of the animals; visiting markets and talking to the dealers; and
recording the species and volumes of endangered and rare wildlife in trade.
(3) Information gathering
Information was gathered by visiting Customs and Entry–Exit Inspection and Quarantine
Bureaus, referring to case records, collecting historical data, and investigating the
historical situation of wildlife and changes in quantity by talking to local residents and
specialty shops. Posing as interested customers or dealers, we also collected information
on overall trade, the source of wildlife for the trade and transportation routes.
In this survey, we used multi-phase random sampling methodology, and followed the
order of ‘‘overall neighborhood committees—neighborhood committee sample—
household sample—individual’’ to randomly ﬁlter the households. If this sampling
method resulted in selection of an unqualiﬁed respondent in the target household, another
qualiﬁed respondent was substituted. If there was more than one qualiﬁed respondent in a
household, only one was interviewed, in accordance with the KISH sampling method.
(1) Urban residents
(2) Shopping centers, restaurants, open markets, customs, ports, forestry bureaus, forest
police, bureaus of foreign trade and border trade, administrations for industry and
commerce, administrations for wildlife entry–exit inspection and quarantine etc.
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1497
Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming and Chengdu are ﬁve representative Chinese
cities with high population density and high wildlife consumption levels. We requested a
consulting company to conduct research by using a questionnaire to address the following
1. The current attitude of Chinese urban residents towards wildlife consumption, the
kinds of wildlife people think can legally be consumed, and factors inﬂuence on the
2. The current situation includes four types of consumer behavior among Chinese urban
residents: using wild animals as food, using medicine or tonic products containing
wildlife ingredients, wearing ornaments and garments made from wildlife, and
keeping wildlife as pets. In understanding behavior, it is essential to consider level of
consumption, consumption channels, species and motives so that we can understand
the wildlife consumption better and ﬁnd ways to improve the law enforcement, as well
as public awareness and education.
3. Characteristics of wildlife consumer groups among Chinese urban residents.
4. Chinese urban residents’ awareness of wild animal protection, the attention they pay to
wildlife protection efforts and their willingness to participate in conservation.
By conducting the survey on public awareness of wildlife consumption, we hoped to be
able to provide government authorities and NGOs with useful information to enhance the
management of the unregulated market and help combat illegal wildlife trade. We also
hoped that it would assist the government in adopting methods to educate the public,
promoting wildlife conservation awareness, establishing the concept of protection, and
ultimately reducing and eliminating illegal commercial exploitation and trade.
Current situation of wildlife trade in key regions
1. Trading sites. The main sites for wildlife trade are ports, border markets, and markets
and stores in cities.
There are 11 ports of entry in Yunnan, among which 7 are road ports (foreigners are
allowed to go through Ruili, Mohan and Hekou ports by railway), 2 are air ports (foreign
ﬂights are allowed to land in Kunming International Airport and Xishuangbanna Inter-
national Airport), and 2 are water based (foreign ships are permitted to go through
Jinghong and Simao ports). In addition, there are 90 border channels and 103 border
markets, including, along the border with Burma, Dehong prefecture with 3 road ports
(Houqiao, Ruili and Wanding), 2 provincial ports in Longchuanzhangfeng and Yingjiang,
and 28 ferries and 64 roads and channels with 22 border markets. Along the border with
Laos, there are 3 ports (of which Honghe county of Honghe prefecture is the largest), 2
provincial ports, over 10 ferries and numerous informal channels.
In Guangxi 8 counties share a border with Vietnam, with 12 border ports of entry,
among which Dongxing, Pingxiang, Youyiguan, Shuikou and Longbang are national ports.
Along the border with Vietnam, 25 border markets are connected by road to these ports and
other trading points. Dongxing, Puzhai and Nongrao-Nonghai are the three most important
border trade ports. Nanning, as the capital of Guangxi, is one of the largest international
1498 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
wildlife trading hubs in China, also acting as a market for trade in domestic wildlife
resources illegally harvested from within the province and Yunnan.
Qinghai does not share a border with any of China’s neighbors, but the province itself is
rich with wildlife resources and trade evident in the numerous markets, drug stores, spe-
cialty stores and breeding farms within the cities in Qinghai. Xining is the biggest city
within Qinghai for trade transactions and consumption of wildlife resources. Geermu is
also a major trading spot for species traded within the province or coming from Tibet and
Xinjiang Autonomous Region, especially for the skin of Tibetan Antelope. Huangzhong
County draws tourists, both foreign and domestic, and is also a major hub for trading wild
animal skins and crafts.
2. Traded species. The six taxonomic groups found in this study to be affected by trade
in China include (species totals are in parentheses, 102 in total): insects (2), ﬁsh (2),
reptiles (3), amphibians (33), birds (21) and mammals (41). Reptiles and mammals are the
most prevalent species in wildlife trade (Table 1). Eighteen of these species are Category I
of China’s State Key Protected Wildlife List; 30 are in Category II of China’s State Key
Protected Wildlife List; 59 of them are CITES-listed (17 from Appendix I, 37 from
Appendix II and 5 from Appendix III). There are 41 species listed in both China’s State
Key Protected Wildlife List and CITES Appendix. Many of the animals traded were
Chinese species or wide-ranging East Asian species. However, in the food and pet trade, a
large proportion of animals were imported from other countries.
3. Trading amounts. According to records from Yunnan Customs, 6,274.8 kgs of turtles
and snakes, 100 crocodiles and 1,372.5 tons of wild plants were imported between 2000
and 2004. In recent years, illegal wildlife trade has grown rapidly, especially along the
border between China and Vietnam. For example, from 1999 to 2004 Hekou (Guangxi
Province) Customs seized more than 600 Slow Loris, 50,000 snakes, 3,000 Asian Water
Monitors and 2,500 Tokay Geckos. From 1998 to 2004, Wanding (Yunnan Province)
Customs seized a total of 19 kgs of tiger bone, 5 kgs of leopard bone, 70 turtles, 12
pangolins, and 2 Green Peacocks. Mengla (Yunnan Province) Customs seized 36 bear
paws, 162 kgs of Big-headed Terrapin, and 12 tons of Thailand Soft-shelled Turtle
between 2000 and 2002. Yunnan forestry police also conﬁscated large amounts of wildlife
being illegally trafﬁcked. For instance, the forestry police of Dali Autonomous County
Table 1 Cognition types and frequency analysis of Chinese urban residents’ attitude toward wildlife
Wildlife consumption attitude Number of
% Cognition types
No wildlife is for consumption 577 42.7 Pure Protection
Captive-bred wildlife can be used for consumption, while wild
caught animals cannot
400 29.6 Conditional
Consumption of traditional Chinese medicine, health products
and cosmetics containing wild animal ingredients is allowable
122 9.1 Conditional
All wild caught animals available in the market can be used for
56 4.2 Conditional
Both captive-bred wildlife and wild caught animals can be used
92 6.8 Pure Utilization
Not sure 88 6.5 Vague
Refuse to answer 17 1.2
Total 1,352 100.0
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1499
conﬁscated over 10,000 wild animals, 3,400 kg of wildlife products and 528 wildlife skins.
At a pet market in Kunming, investigators found more than 600 turtles and birds as well as
1,200 pieces of wildlife products waiting for sale.
In Guangxi Province, most wildlife trade takes place along the border area. For
example, the number of specimens found in Pingxiang City included 20,000–30,000 Tokay
Geckos, 500–1,000 Asian Water Monitors, 1,000–2,000 Pangolins, 30–50 tons of snakes,
10–20 tons of frogs, 20–30 tons of turtles, 5–10 tons of soft-shelled turtles, and 1–3 tons
of birds of prey each year. In Dongxing City, wildlife trade each year amounts to 10,000–
24,000 snakes, 12,000–24,000 tons of frogs, 3,600–6,000 turtles, 480–1,200 raptors, and
2,400–6,000 Tokay Geckos. In addition, investigators found 600 frogs, 1,100 turtles, 550
soft-shelled turtles, 1,360 snakes, 177 Asian Water Monitors, 100 raptors, over 60 small
mammals, 3,680 wild birds and 180 reptiles in the pet markets in Nanning.
In Qinghai Province, a wildlife trade survey was carried out in Xining City, Germu City
and Huangzhong County. In 2004, a total of 11 skins of leopard (Panthera pardus), 1 skin
of wild cat (Felis lybica), 3 skins of Tibetan Sand Fox (Vulpes corsac), 1 skin of Stone
Marien (Martes foina), and 2 skins of wolf (Canis Lupus) were found in the markets. The
number of wildlife seized by local customs and forestry police included: 26 snow cocks
(Fetarogallus tibetanus), 8 Tibetan wild asses (Equus kiang), 684 skins of Tibetan antelope
(Pantholops hodgsonii), 2 skulls of Argali sheep (Ovis ammon), 13 skulls of deer, 6 skulls
of wild yak (Bos grunniens), 40 skulls of Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), 3
raptors, and 105 skins of fox. In addition, Xining Zoo is believed to have purchased 94 wild
Snow leopards between 1968 and 1984 (Qinghai Wildlife Conservation Association 2005).
According to Qinghai Wildlife Management Bureau, at least 1,200 Saker Falcons (Falco
cherrug) are poached in average each year in Qinghai Province (Qinghai Wildlife Man-
agement Bureau 2005).
While Customs’ data would indicate that wildlife smuggling is gradually decreasing, the
government’s data on conﬁscated wildlife indicates otherwise, signaling that the majority
of smuggling is occurring in underground and black markets.
4. Trading purposes. Wildlife trade is driven by a multitude of markets including:
•Food, such as snake and monkey, most of which can be found in the market as live
animals or animal parts;
•Medicine and tonic products, such as tiger bone, bear bile, or deer horn, most of which
can be found as animal parts in the drug store or supermarket;
•Crafts and souvenirs, such as ivory and antelope skull, most of which can be found as
animal parts in the craft store, gift shop or open market;
•Garments and decoration, such as tiger skin, crocodile skin, and Tibetan antelope wool,
most of which can be found as animal skins in the market or port; and
•Pets, like turtles, lizards, and blue peacocks, most of which can be found as live
animals in the market.
5. Trading sources and routes
Wildlife is mainly coming in from border markets such as Vietnam, Laos and
Myanmar. Some animals coming through this route include the Hieremys annandalii,
Cuora amboinensis,Indotestudo elongata,Aspideretes hurum,Varanus salvator,
Enhydris bocourti,Manis javanica. From other provinces within China, such as
Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Guangdong, species traded include Elaphe taeniura,
Ptyas korros,Erinaceus europaeus,Passer montanus, and many species of pheasants,
1500 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
hawks and owls. Wildlife traded mainly in local markets includes Cervus elaphus
(Qinghai), Trimeresures stejnegeri,Rana guentheri,Gallicrex cinerea, and Lepus
capensis (Guangxi). Breeding facilities also exist, the largest being in Baoshan.
Species commonly found in farms include Pavo cristatus (Yunnan—for domestic
sale) and Pelodiscus sinensis. Wild caught Nycticebus intermedous,Naja naja and
Manis javanica are also smuggled from Vietnam into Yunnan but declared as captive
Ruili city of Dehong prefecture is the largest trading port of entry between China and
Myanmar, and it represents more than half of the total import and export trade
volume in Yunnan. Unlike Guangdong, Yunnan has more convenient road
transportation and longer shared borders with neighboring countries. This means
that many smugglers prefer to trade along the borders, instead of through Customs,
making it even harder to regulate and monitor the illegal trade. Legal wildlife trade in
Yunnan mainly comes from river ports in eastern Yunnan.
Guangxi beneﬁts immensely from wildlife trade. As wildlife in Guangdong is
expensive in comparison to other regions, most of the imported wildlife in Guangxi
(about 85%) is traded to Guangdong and the rest goes to Nanning, then Liuzhou.
Qinghai is rich in wildlife resources, so most of the wildlife traded there is sold
locally or to nearby provinces (Fig. 2).
6. Government trade control agencies. Government agencies with a role in wildlife
trade management include Customs, the State Forestry Administration, the Bureau of
Fig. 2 Map of the wildlife trade routes in key regions in southwest China
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1501
Fisheries (under the Ministry of Agriculture), the Ministry of Commerce, the Adminis-
tration of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Police.
Customs is responsible for inspecting imported and exported goods, managing and
monitoring wildlife trade, overseeing wildlife smuggling cases, within the customs
inspection area and the coastal area near customs, and conﬁscating wildlife during
smuggling and illegal importation.
(2) State Forestry Administration
In terms of import and export control, the Forestry Bureau has the right to monitor the
implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of
Wildlife and other related regulations. According to the ‘‘Speciﬁc Permit Law,’’ the
Forestry Bureau can authorize or submit import and export applications to higher
level authorities for authorization, and the Bureau has the right to handle cases
involving forging, cheating, or transferring import or export permits.
The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna
(CITES) is enforced by ofﬁces around the country under the management of the
China National Management Authority (CNMA) and the Forestry Bureau. They are
responsible for the monitoring of CITES implementation on wildlife trade,
authorizing permits and certiﬁcates, assisting relevant law enforcement bodies in
illegal importing or exporting cases, rescuing and resettling conﬁscated live wild
animals, charging wildlife import and export management fees based on relevant
regulations, and organizing the training or publicity on CITES and the related
(3) Ministry of Commerce
This Ministry is responsible for the registration and management of import and export
companies, foreign investment, international economic and technical cooperation,
and port development and management.
(4) Ministry of Police
The Police Bureau, particularly the Administration of Forestry Police, is responsible
for managing state protected wildlife trafﬁcking occurring outside of Customs
inspection areas and coastal area near Customs. The armed police bureau and the
police bureau inspect people going through customs to check whether they are
carrying prohibited goods. If prohibited wildlife is found, offenders are transferred to
Forestry Police and Customs for further legal procedures.
(5) Administration of Industry and Commerce
This Administration is responsible for the management of domestic markets,
protection of wildlife species, monitoring the market selling of livestock, marine
animals, ﬂowers, medicine and wildlife, and jointly working with the Forestry Bureau
to regulate the market. Conﬁscated wildlife or smuggling cases identiﬁed by this
Administration are handed over to the Police Bureau.
(6) Bureau of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture
The Bureau is responsible for the implementation of state laws and regulations on
oceans and ﬁshery management, as well as for related international conventions. This
means they control the overall management of China’s ocean space, including ocean
environmental monitoring, aquatic animal conservation, ﬁshery industry administra-
tion, the ﬁshery industry business permit system, and other ﬁshing activities, such as
processing and distribution.
1502 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
Current situation of wildlife consumption in the market
‘‘Should wild animal consumption be allowed?’’ ‘‘What kind of wild animals can be used
for consumption?’’ Through urban Chinese residents’ answers to these questions, we can
assess general attitudes towards wildlife consumption that the ﬁrst group is explicitly
opposed to wildlife consumption, and they hold ‘‘Pure Protection’’ (PP) viewpoint; the
second, third and ﬁfth groups are subject to the inﬂuence and inducement of various kinds
of factors, and thus they may be divided into an interest-driven group—the ‘‘Conditional
Utilization’’(CU); without misgivings about wildlife consumption, the fourth group holds
the ‘‘Pure Utilization’’ (PU); those who are not sure about their attitude belong to the
‘‘Vague’’ cognition group (see Table 1).
Attitudes regarding wildlife consumption. Thus, our analysis reveals that at present
43.3% of urban residents agree with the CU cognition, compared to 43.2% with PP
cognition; PU group and vague group account for 6.9% and 6.6% respectively. Attitudes
towards wildlife consumption varied between cities (Table 2). The result showed that
54.9% of residents in Guangzhou agreed with the CU cognition, together with the PU
group (11.4%), the percentage of wildlife utilization group was signiﬁcantly higher than
that of the other four cities.
Consumption levels. We divided the wildlife consumers into three groups: light con-
sumption group (2 times or below per year), medium consumption group (3–9 times per
year) and heavy consumption group (10 times and more per year). There is distinct dif-
ference among cities in the level of consumption of wildlife. Heavy consumption is by far
higher in Beijing (27.1%), Guangzhou (25.8%) and Shanghai (24%), than in Chengdu
(8.7%) and Kunming (7%). Medium consumption is much higher in Shanghai (44%) and
Guangzhou (34.8%) than in other cities. Among 1,352 respondents 78.8% did not eat any
of the species listed. Animals that were consumed by more than 5% of respondents in the
past year include quail (8.2%), ring-necked pheasants (6.7%), hares (6.7%), frogs (6.5%)
and snakes (6%).
Where is wildlife consumed. Among the places where wild animals are consumed by
Chinese urban residents, common and high-grade restaurants and hotels account for 41%
and 34% respectively. The purchasing of wild animals at vegetable/non-staple/ﬂea markets
(32.8%) and supermarkets (24%) is also high.
Why do people consume wildlife. More than 50% of wildlife consumers said they
consume wildlife because they ﬁnd the taste delicious. Those who tried wild animals
because they felt they were rare represent 23.3% of the surveyed, while 20.9% of people
indicated they tried wildlife out of curiosity. Those who tried wild animals for nutritional
and nourishment purposes accounted for 19.3%. About 5.1% of respondents said they eat
wild animals at dinner parties. About 13.6% of consumers ate wild animals because they
were served to them by others.
Geographical differences on wildlife consumption. There is a marked difference
between consumers from different cities in the degree of wild animal consumption. The
‘‘heavy consumption’’ group is higher in Beijing (33.3%) than in other cities; the ‘‘medium
consumption’’ is higher in Chengdu (50%) and Guangzhou (41.7%) than in other cities;
and the ‘‘light consumption’’ is highest in Kunming (65.5%).
Major wildlife products in consumption. The 21 wildlife breeds or products selected in
this survey consist of 14 species of wild animal and seven breeds of wild plants. Among the
•85.8% said they had not eaten any of the breeds mentioned on the list in the past year.
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1503
Table 2 Analysis of Chinese urban residents’ attitude toward wildlife consumption in different cities
Cognition type Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou Chengdu Kunming Total
% Number of
% Number of
% Number of
% Number of
% Number of
167 42.6 196 39.3 128 54.9 49 37.4 38 47.8 578 43.3
Pure Protection 191 48.7 237 47.4 53 22.7 63 48.3 34 42.2 577 43.2
Pure Utilization 17 4.3 28 5.7 27 11.4 17 13.2 3 3.7 92 6.9
Vague 17 4.3 38 7.7 26 11.0 1 1.1 5 6.3 88 6.6
Total 393 100.0 500 100.0 234 100.0 130 100.0 79 100.0 1335 100.0
1504 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
•Sinkgo (4.9%), snake gall (4.6%), Cordyceps sinensis (3.9%), musk (Moschus spp.)
(3.3%), snow saussurea (Saussurea spp.) (2.3%) and snake oil (2.2%) were all heavily
consumed in the past year.
•Of the people who purchased medicine or health products containing wildlife
– 67.3% of consumers purchased them at pharmacies,
– 26.3% purchased from supermarkets, and
– 12.3% purchased from general stores
– 24.7% used wildlife medicine or health products given to them by others (higher
than the percentage of those who ate wild animals as food given by others (13.6%))
– 48.8% think medicine and health products containing wildlife ingredients promote
health by increasing nutrition and nourishment, 44.5% think such medicine and
health products have special curative effects, and 26.7% say that they have no other
choice because the medicine they need contains these ingredients.
In this survey, we listed 11 wildlife products for respondents to identify. According to
the results, 40%, or 3%, of the total respondents had articles made from wildlife (see
Table 3). Thirteen respondents said they were not sure about or refused to answer their
consumption frequency. On average, the wildlife product owned had been made within the
last 2 years (27 respondents). Ninety seven percent of the respondents did not own any of
the 11 articles made from wild animals on the list in the past 2 years. Among the 40 people
who had articles, the percentage of the ownership of ivory and marten products were
highest. In the survey, of those with wildlife products, 47.9% of the ornaments and ready-
made products owned by the respondents were given to them by others, 19.4% were
purchased from leather and wool product stores, 24% were purchased from stores, 18.8%
were purchased at general ornament stores, 13.8% at tourist stores or markets, and 10%
were purchase in ﬂea markets. In the survey, 67.3% of the respondents believed that
ornaments and ready-made clothes made from wildlife were beautiful. Those who owned
these products out of curiosity account for 34.1%; those who regard it as a fashionable
lifestyle make up 25.5%, and those who think it shows their distinctive taste and status
account for 6.4%.
Table 3 Situation of the con-
sumption of 11 wildlife products
Note: As it is a multiple-choice
question, total sample is 1,352
respondents and the sum of the
choice percentage exceeds 100%
Wildlife products Frequency %
None 1,312 97.0
Ivory items 15 1.1
Marten 14 1.0
Coral 8 0.6
Fox skin 7 0.5
Wild animal specimens used for ornaments (bull’s
head, peacock feather, wild yak’s horn,
Seal skin 3 0.3
Otter skin 3 0.2
Tiger skin 3 0.2
Hawksbill items 2 0.1
Tibetan antelope wool 0 0
Total 1,372 101.5
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1505
On the survey, we also listed 18 species of wild animals that can be raised in captivity, a
total of 107 respondents have raised the wild animals on the list, accounting for 7.9% in the
total (see Table 4). In terms of the average number of wild animals raised by residents in
the cities, Beijing ranks ﬁrst, and Shanghai comes second. Among 1,352 total respondents,
those who did not raise any of the species listed account for 92.1%. However, tortoises,
mynah, parrot, sparrow and thrush are the most common species raised by people.
Respondents who purchased wild animals from pet markets account for 49.1%, those who
adopted wild animals or accepted wild animals given by others account for 27.1%. A
percentage of 63.6% of the respondents raise wild animals because they have fun in doing
so, and over 75% raise wild animals for aesthetic purposes.
What drove respondents to start wild animal consumption? Among the 420 respondents
who have consumed wild animals, 25.5% purchased wild animals or products recom-
mended by their relatives and friends, 24.9% consumed wild animals given to them by
others, 17.4% purchased wild animals after watching advertisements on the products or
publicity materials on the species, 10.3% purchased wildlife products recommended by
professionals (like traditional medicine practitioner), and 11.5% were unsure of how they
started wild animal consumption.
Among those who have consumed wild animals, 36.9% do not know whether they have
consumed captive bred or wild animals, 23% know the animal they consumed was captive
bred, 19.2% know that they consumed both captive-bred wild animals and real wild
animals, and 7.7% know that what they consumed are real wild animals. Among 420
respondents who have consumed wild animals, 36.9% prefer real wild animals, 20.2%
prefer captive-bred wild animals and 28.4% do not have a preference. Preference varies by
city: the percentage of consumers in Guangzhou who prefer wild animals (44.2%) is
slightly higher than that in other cities, followed by the percentage in Kunming (40.6%)
and Shanghai (37.5%); the percentage of consumers who prefer captive-bred wild animals
is the highest in Beijing (33.3%), and the percentage in Chengdu (26.5%) comes second.
From this survey, 932 of the 1,352 respondents had never consumed wild animals.
Among them, those who regard wild animal consumption as uncivilized behavior account
for 37.5%; 37.4% think it is unhealthy and may cause infection of diseases; 33.7% believe
Table 4 Situation of raising
wildlife as pet (n=1,352)
Note: As it is a multiple-choice
question, total sample is 1,352
respondents and the sum of the
choice percentage exceeds 100%
Wildlife in captivity as pet Frequency %
None 1,245 92.1
Turtle and Tortoises (in general, species known) 56 4.2
Mynah (mynah, hill myna) 20 1.5
Parrots (in general, species unknown) 19 1.4
Sparrow (species unknown) 17 1.3
Thrush (species unknown) 17 1.2
Leiothrix (species unknown) 3 0.2
Squirrel (chipmunk) 3 0.2
Tit (giant tit, willow tit, marsh tit etc) 2 0.2
Axolotl (species unknown) 2 0.1
Lark (Mongolian lark, horned lark, skylark etc) 2 0.1
White-eye (Japanese white-eye, Chestnut-ﬂanked
Macaque (species unknown) 1 0.0
Total 1,388 102.7
1506 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
wild animals should be conserved and they are not for consumption; 33.3% think it will
destroy the ecological environment and it is not conducive to environmental protection;
26.8% have no particular preference for wild animals; 5.1% have not consumed wild
animals because they could not afford it, and 0.6% have not because they had no oppor-
tunity for consumption.
Current situation of public consumption and protection awareness
Cognition of wildlife
The survey ﬁndings show that at present, 61.7% of Chinese urban residents believe ‘‘all
wild animals should be protected’’ (Protection Group), 15.5% think ‘‘some wild animals
should not be conserved because they carry viruses or bacteria that human beings are
susceptible to and they may communicate the diseases to human beings’’ (Middle Group
1), 11.5% think ‘‘it is not necessary to protect wildlife, which is a kind of resource and
valuable to human beings, and has strong ability to reproduce and survive’’ (Utilization
Group), and 3.4% think ‘‘wild animals that pose a threat to human beings’ safety, like
jackals and wolves, should not be protected’’ (Middle Group 2). Those who are not sure
about this issue account for 7.1%, and 12 respondents refused to answer this question,
taking up 0.9% in the total number of respondents.
Interestingly, the distribution of the four groups varies signiﬁcantly from one city to
another. The Protection Group represents the majority of respondents in Kunming (68.8%),
Beijing (69.1%) and Shanghai (67.2%). The Middle Group 1 and 2 takes up a higher
percentage in Guangzhou (31.5%) and Chengdu (23.6%). The Utilization Group accounts
for a higher percentage in Chengdu (21%) than in the other four cities.
In this study, we listed 20 species of heavily consumed wild animals under priority
protection in China for respondents to identify. The results show that for the majority of the 20
species, the Protection Group rate is below 50% among Chinese urban residents (Table 5).
Again, there is a marked difference in cognition levels of residents living in different cities.
Residents in Kunming have the highest cognitive level regarding protected wildlife, Beijing
is second, Shanghai and Chengdu rank third, and the lowest is in Guangzhou.
Wildlife protection awareness
How do the Chinese regard the relationship between wild animals and human beings? In
this survey, 57.3% of the respondents see wild animals as serving a companion role for
human beings, 52.6% think wild animals are equal to human beings and both deserve
protection and respect, 30% regard wild animals as good resources and believe the purpose
of wild animal conservation is to allow better utilization by human beings, 13.6% think
wild animals and human beings belong to two different worlds, 9.1% see no relationship
between wild animals and human beings and think they are lower than human beings, and
6.5% think wild animals pose a threat to human lives.
At present, animal welfare is a popular topic in China. When asked about this issue,
nearly 60% of urban respondents think improved animal welfare is related to societal
development and 21.8% say there is a close relation. Meanwhile, 12.1% of the respondents
say they are not sure about this issue, and 6.1% see no relation between the two.
How many and why Chinese people are concerned with wild animal protection work
now will affect what methods are used for future intervention. More than 50% of Chinese
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1507
urban residents are supportive of wildlife conservation; those holding a negative attitude
account for 19.5%. Residents of Beijing are most supportive of conservation efforts
(67.1%), followed by Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Among 209 respondents who explicitly noted that they were not concerned about
wildlife conservation, 36.7% say they have no personal connection to wildlife, 17.9%
believe conservation should only be through the government, 16.1% believe any effort they
make will have little impact, 12.7% feel there are too few people involved in conservation
for it to make a difference, 4.2% of them regard the work a waste of time and money, 0.7%
of them think it unnecessary to protect wildlife, and 10.6% indicated no speciﬁc reason for
not being concerned with conservation.
Most urban residents have an accurate understanding of the severe situation faced by
wildlife in China. In this survey, 83.1% of the respondents are positive about the issue and
believe that wildlife could avoid extinction through conservation measures, and 10.6% of
them are negative about this issue, believing that, considering the current situation, species
extinction is unavoidable.
In 1988, China promulgated the Law on Wild Animal Protection, which stipulates a list of
wild animals under priority protection in China. The list contains about 100 species of wild
animals under ﬁrst-level state protection and more than 200 species under second-level state
As its supporting statute, the Implementation Rules on the Protection of Land Wild Animals of
the P.R.C.,promulgated in 1992, claims that the legal systemfor wild animal protection with the
Law on Wild Animal Protection has been ﬁrmly established. Yet, in this survey, as many as
46.7% of the respondents are unaware of the two statutes, 30.4% know about the Law on Wild
Animal Protection, and 15.1% know about the Implementation Rules on the Protection of Land
Table 5 Cognition of 20
national protected wildlife spe-
cies known by Chinese urban
Species Frequency %
Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) 848 62.7
Yangtze alligator (Aligator sinensis) 812 60.1
Giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) 753 55.7
Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) 751 55.5
Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni) 734 54.3
Spotted deer (Cervus nippon) 659 48.8
Black bear (Ursus thibetanus) 586 43.4
Elephant (Elephas maximus) 546 40.4
Macaque (Macaca mulatta) 483 35.7
Sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) 424 31.4
Giant lizard (Varanus salvator) 417 30.9
Python (Python molurus) 329 24.4
Yellow sheep (Procapra gutturosa) 317 23.4
Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) 304 22.5
Otter (Lutra lutra) 298 22.1
Lynx (Lynx lynx) 261 19.3
Newt (Cynops orientalis) 232 17.2
Giant gecko (Gekko gecko) 204 15.1
Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) 153 11.3
Partridge (Arborophila spp.) 144 10.7
1508 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
At present, despite these legal provisions, unlawful consumption of wild animals still
exists in China. In this survey, 41.6% of respondents impute it due to poor enforcement,
39.5% think the law itself is lack of details on regulating the wildlife consumption that
results in rampant unlawful consumption, and 37.5% hold that the sanctions imposed by
law are not stern enough, which is why the law does not truly play its role of prohibiting
unlawful behavior. Meanwhile, 35% believe that many people do not know the existence
of relevant statutes, due to inadequate efforts made toward publicity of the statutes, 32.9%
think that money is more powerful than law, and that the rich can access any product they
desire despite illegality, and 22.8% maintain that traditional notions in the Chinese society
have signiﬁcant inﬂuence on people’s behavior, and it is difﬁcult to change in a short time.
At present, respondents indicated the following actions as urgently needing to be taken:
•Publicity efforts to heighten public awareness of wild animal protection (50%),
•Relevant statutes formulated and the legal system improved (33.2%),
•Punishment on the persecution of wild animals should be increased (27.6%),
•Cultivate public awareness of environmental protection (25.7%),
•Tighten regulation and control over wild animal trade and transportation (25.4%),
•Strengthen education on wild animal protection among children and adolescents (21%),
•Devote additional funds to wild animal protection (17.7%),
•Improve the professional quality of foresters and law enforcement personnel in the
•Support more wild animal protection organizations (14.1%).
Of information Chinese urban residents have been exposed to in the last 6 months, the
top three types are wild animals in trade (30.4%), photographs of wild animal hunting
(29.6%) and documentaries on wild animals’ lives (28%). In additional, people also
indicated learning about wildlife conservation (22.7%) and the spread of diseases from
wild animals to human beings (22.6%). Dissemination of information most commonly
comes through TV and rarely through publicity activities or other community programs.
For information on wild animals, the percentage of those who pay attention to visual
information is much higher among heavy consumers than among light and medium con-
sumers. A high percentage of medium consumers pay attention to non-visual information.
Among the various types of public beneﬁt activities concerning wild animals, people are
most willing to take part in publicity activities on wild animal protection (45.7%), and a
high percentage of people are interested in ecotourism (31.6%). Regarding consumer
behavior, the respondents explicitly noted that they would abstain from purchasing wild
animals (38%), using medicine or health products containing wildlife ingredients (20%), or
acquiring cosmetics containing wildlife ingredients (17%). Less than a quarter of
respondents would be willing to provide monetary support for improving conditions of zoo
animals or supporting wildlife conservation organizations.
Consumption and protection awareness among different consumption groups
In this study, 932 respondents noted that they had no consumption experiences involving
wild animals in the past 2 years, accounting for 68.9% in the total number of respondents
(1,352). Among the 420 respondents who had wild animal consumption experiences, three
respondents consumed wild animals other than the species we listed in this survey; 91
respondents consumed the species listed but were not sure about their consumption fre-
quency; 326 respondents consumed the species listed and were clear about their
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1509
Among the 326 respondents who have had wild animal consumption experiences, light
consumers account for 59.8%, medium consumers 28.7%, and heavy consumers 11.5%.
Among the ﬁve cities, the percentage of light consumers is the highest in Kunming and
Chengdu, and the percentage of heavy consumers is the highest in Beijing and Guangzhou.
The percentage of medium consumers is higher in Beijing than in other cities. Further
analysis reveals some difference between these consumer groups in sex, age, income and
occupations. The heavy consumption group (392 samples in total) consists largely of
young men (222 individuals) who were under 35 year old, many of whom are physical
workers, students, self-employed and freelancers, with relatively good education and high
monthly household income. The majority of them have a monthly household income of
above RMB 3,001.
There is signiﬁcant variability between different consumer groups in understanding the
scope of wildlife under protection. The percentage of consumers with the Pure Protection
cognition type is higher among light consumers and medium consumers than among heavy
consumers; the percentage of those holding the Conditional Utilization cognition is the
highest among heavy consumers.
In summary, people’s knowledge about state-protected wildlife does not directly
inﬂuence their consumer behavior. Consumption level is proportional to cognitive levels.
The percentage of those with high cognitive level is the highest among heavy consumers.
Among residents with high cognitive level, the percentage of those who have consumed
wild animals is equal to the percentage who has never consumed wild animals. A higher
percentage of residents with low cognitive level have not consumed wildlife. The majority
of light consumers began consuming animals on their own accord, while the majority of
medium and heavy consumers involuntarily began consuming animals (e.g. pressure from
family, coworkers or items given as gifts). Heavy consumers are more concerned about the
place of origin of wild animals compared to the other consumers. They generally know
whether they have consumed wild or captive bred animals, and have a stronger preference
towards wild animals than the other consumer groups.
Conclusions and recommendations
Wildlife trade in key regions continues to be very active because of a continuous supply of
wildlife resources and large market demand for wildlife goods. Our survey statistics show
that as time passes, however, there is a gradual trend toward a reduction in total wildlife
trade for the following reasons:
(1) Due to heavy cross-border poaching, wildlife resources have been greatly reduced,
with some species even facing extinction.
(2) In recent years, the government has strengthened law enforcement and the wildlife
trade control system. As a result, illegal trading is riskier, causing some traders to
leave the trade.
(3) After SARS in 2003 and bird ﬂu in early 2004, previously legal wildlife was banned
for import, and the general public began becoming aware of the negative impact
wildlife could have on their health. Though smuggling still exists, the trade amount
1510 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
1. Establish a wildlife trade control & monitoring network. It is difﬁcult to identify the
numerous wildlife species and their products in daily trade control and legal procedures,
and, due to language barriers and politics, it is hard to compile evidence for foreign crimes.
The handling of conﬁscated live wild animals is also a problem. Enforcement ofﬁcers often
release conﬁscated animals anywhere, without any consultation from wildlife experts. This
improper release can directly affect the life of local people and the ability of the animals to
Stringent measures must be taken to ensure that an effective trade control system is
established to prevent the deﬁciencies in management of wildlife trade and ensure adequate
enforcement so illegally traded animals cannot enter the market. The CITES Management
Authority should work with Customs and the Forestry Bureau to set up a joint network and
obtain greater support from international organizations to conduct long-term wildlife trade
control and monitoring in the border regions, develop a wildlife import and export data-
base, and give feedback on natural resource utilization.
2. Enforcement capacity building. Most of the villagers in the border regions are
minority groups with their own customs and culture. There are very few wildlife conser-
vation publicity events or education materials (such as video or audio) in their villages.
There are no regulations for wildlife import and export control. Limited by the slow
economic development and the limited amount of education received, local governmental
decision makers often feel there is no alternative but to consume the natural resources. It is
necessary to educate the public on the relationship between global environmental con-
servation and country and local economic development, as well as short and long term
potential economic beneﬁts associated with wildlife protection.
The improvement of statutes and law enforcement should not be neglected. The survey
shows that people regard lax enforcement, poor operability of statutes and too lenient
sanctions on violations as the main causes for the rampant unlawful wild animal con-
sumption. Even heavy consumers of wildlife recognize that improvement and enforcement
of statutes and punitive measures would have great inﬂuence on their practices and reduce
demand for wildlife consumption.
For improvements to be made, it is essential that CITES training and education pro-
grams focusing on techniques for trade control, CITES regulations and species
identiﬁcation are delivered to law enforcers, including those from Forestry Bureau, For-
estry Police Bureau, Customs, and Administration of Industry and Commerce.
In addition, government agencies and international NGOs can work jointly to promote
information exchange and cooperation between border countries. As was found in this
investigation, local networks, government agencies and NGOs have been established to
mitigate trade but enforcement is lacking.
Public awareness on wildlife consumption and protection
Considering the current heavy wild animal consumption, it is difﬁcult to be too optimistic
In this survey, we found that 31.1% of residents had consumed wild animals. Considering
that people may conceal their actual consumption behaviors when answering our questions,
we adopted aversion techniques in designing the questionnaire. However, techniques can
only reduce the intervention of subjective factors to some extent. Therefore, the percentage
of wild animal consumers in real life is assumed to be higher than the data suggest.
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1511
Even thought the data likely underestimate the problem, the actual ﬁgures obtained still
reveal a desired approach to wild animal consumption among Chinese urban residents.
Those who consume wildlife regularly are the largest group, accounting for 31.1% of the
total. What is more worrying is that 57.5% of residents who consume wildlife voluntarily
started to buy wild animals due to word of mouth, media or the inﬂuence of professionals.
In the analysis of different groups’ attitudes towards wild animal consumption, we ﬁnd that
a high percentage of those who have never consumed wild animals hold the ‘‘utilization
value theory,’’ and the percentage of those holding ‘‘vague cognition’’ is even higher
among those who have never consumed wild animals than among wild animal consumers.
Given that Chinese urban residents’ wild animal consumption is affected to a great extent
by community views and pressure, in the future it is possible that more people will begin
wild animal consumption due to societal inﬂuences. Considering the current situation,
intervening now, before more people become wild animal consumers, is very important, as
changing consumer behavior once it has begun is much more difﬁcult.
Less than 50% of Chinese urban residents hold the correct attitude toward wild animal
consumption. Consumer attitude is subject to various factors, and cognitive level does not
play a decisive role
People’s attitudes inﬂuence their behavior. In this survey, we found that only 42.7% of
Chinese urban residents think no wild animals should be consumed. Consumer attitude is
subject to various factors, and cognitive level does not play a decisive role. First we
examined people’s views regarding the scope of wild animals that should be protected.
Those who hold the view that ‘‘all wild animals should be protected,’’ were more likely to
not be supportive of animal consumption. This would indicate that to some extent people’s
attitude toward wild animal consumption is directly proportional to their cognitive level.
Second, through a comparative study on consumer attitude of groups with different
demographic background, we ﬁnd that well educated groups have high cognitive level of
wild animal protection. Yet people’s attitude towards wild animal consumption is not
directly proportional to their educational level. Among groups with different educational
background, the percentage of those who could correctly identify the listed protected
species is the highest among two-year college graduates, followed by high school and
junior high school graduates. However, those who are not necessarily in disagreement with
wildlife consumption are more likely to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and likewise the
percentage of those following the ‘‘utilization value theory’’ is higher among those with
bachelor’s degree or above (55.8%) than among those with less formal education.
Among groups with different income levels, the percentage of those holding the ‘‘uti-
lization value theory’’ is higher among those with monthly household income above 3,001
Yuan than among other groups. This indicates that, to a certain degree, ﬁnancial strength
increases people’s propensity to consume wild animals. Third, there is marked difference
between groups with different consumption levels and their motives for consumption. For
example, the behavior of eating wild animals: a greater proportion of heavy consumers
(58.7%) eat wild animals because they ﬁnd them delicious. The percentage of those
holding the utilization value theory is much higher among heavy consumers than among
the other two groups. On the other hand, a higher percentage of light consumers tried wild
animals out of curiosity. Due to traditional notions, heavy consumers hold the ‘‘utilization
theory,’’ and they also have ﬁxed consumption behavior because of the preference for wild
animals. This poses a considerable obstacle to intervention efforts.
1512 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
Wild animal consumption has distinct regional differences and group features
(1) Regional differences. When looking at consumer behavior, consumption degrees,
consumption channels and consumption motives, different cities have different con-
sumption features. For example, the behavior associated with eating wild animals: a high
percentage of residents in Shanghai and Guangzhou eat wild animals at popular restaurants
and purchase wild animals from markets to cook at home, and the percentage of heavy and
medium consumers in Guangzhou is higher among residents in these two cities than in
other cities (the percentage of heavy consumers in Guangzhou is second only to that in
Beijing). For consumption motives, taste and nourishment are the two primary motives for
eating wild animals among residents in Shanghai and Guangzhou. This indicates that
eating wild animals has become a habitual consumption behavior among residents in
Shanghai and Guangzhou. Among the ﬁve cities, the percentage of residents in Beijing
who eat wild animals at high-end restaurants and hotels is highest, as is the percentage of
heavy consumer and light consumer residents. Most people consume wild animals out of
curiosity, with the idea that wild animals are rare. For initial consumption motives, a major
percentage of people involuntarily started wild animal consumption (i.e. it was given to
them by friends, family, or colleagues). This indicates that wild animal consumption has
become part of the lifestyle of some high-income people in Beijing; it also indicates the
inﬂuence of peers and group pressure on consumer behavior and consumption methods. It
is possible that without effective control and intervention, many consumers will become
medium and heavy consumers. According to the current trend, Beijing is likely to become
a swing consumer city.
(2) Group features. We divided the 326 consumers into groups depending on their
In terms of consumer attitude, the percentage of those with the correct attitude toward
wild animal consumption is lower among heavy consumers than among light consumers
and medium consumers. With regard to the viewpoint regarding the relationship between
human beings and wild animals, the percentage of those holding the ‘‘utilization view,’’
‘‘unrelated view’’ and ‘‘threat view’’ is higher among heavy consumers than among light
and medium consumers. Interestingly, we ﬁnd that although the percentage of those with
the correct cognition is higher among light consumers and medium consumers than among
heavy consumers, heavy consumers’ cognitive level of state-protected wild animals is the
highest among the three groups. This indicates that in terms of intervention efforts,
strengthening education among heavy consumers is not necessarily effective.
For consumption preference, the percentage of those who know they have consumed
wild animals (as opposed to farmed) and the percentage of those who prefer wild animals
are higher among heavy consumers than among other groups. This indicates that the group
has very high awareness of their consumer behavior.
Regarding wild animal protection work, the percentage of those not supportive is much
higher among heavy consumers than among the other two groups. Meanwhile, the per-
centage of those regarding conservation as the government’s responsibility and the
percentage of those who think few people are concerned about this issue are much higher
among heavy consumers than among the other two groups.
The percentage of those who do not know about the two statutes on wild animal
protection is higher among heavy consumers than among light and medium consumers.
The percentage of those who know about the two statutes is the highest among light
consumers. For information on wild animals, the percentage of those who pay attention to
visual information is much higher among heavy consumers than among light and medium
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1513
consumers. With regard to the willingness to participate in public beneﬁt activities for wild
animal protection, a high percentage of heavy consumers are willing to take part in eco-
logical tourism and provide monetary support, but the percentage of those willing to
change their consumption behavior is lower than the other two groups. A high percentage
of medium consumers are willing to take part in publicity activities, and a high percentage
of light consumers are willing to abstain from wild animals in food, medicine or health
products containing wildlife ingredients. This further indicates the importance in inter-
vening in consumer behavior before it become habitual, as in the case of heavy consumers.
Merely underscoring the threat posed by wild animals to human beings’ health (taking
SARS for example) does not help. It is necessary to use both hard and soft tactics in
Since the outbreak of SARS in 2003, there has been greater focus on human health in the
discussion of eating wild animals. Animal medical experts point out that wild animals such
as primates, rodents and ungulates share more than 100 diseases with human beings
(Karesh et al. 2005). Even with warnings from various consumer associations and animal
protection organizations, diseases continue to spread. Recent studies have identiﬁed the
Chinese horseshoe bat as the natural reservoir of the coronaviruses from which the SARS
viruses that infected humans and civets likely emerged (Lau et al. 2005; Li et al. 2005).
In July 2003, 22 academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly called for
efforts to be stepped up for resources supporting wildlife conservation, improving statutes
on wildlife protection, and establishing healthy diet views. Sudden threats of disasters like
a widespread disease certainly affect people’s lifestyle and behaviors quickly, but it is not
feasible to expect such temporary impact to fundamentally change the deep-rooted motives
and notions formed by long-term social customs and traditions. In this study, we ﬁnd that
merely educating people on the threat posed to their health by wild animal consumption
cannot fundamentally change people’s attitude towards wild animal consumption. It can
only heighten, to a certain extent, people’s hostility toward wild animals, and cannot
engender a conservation-oriented view towards wild animals. In comparing residents in
different cities in terms of their understanding of wild animal protection, we ﬁnd that the
percentage of Guangzhou residents, who were the ﬁrst to receive the impact of SARS, hold
the ‘‘threat theory’’ at the highest; while their cognitive level about protected wild animals
is the lowest. Among the four groups divided by the viewpoints regarding the scope of wild
animals that should be protected, the percentage of those holding the ‘‘utilization value
theory’’ of consumption is comparable to those holding the ‘‘threat theory’’ and the
‘‘utilization value theory.’’ In other words, the view that wild animals may spread diseases
to human beings or pose a threat to their lives does not reduce peoples’ propensity to utilize
or consume wild animals. Therefore, in conducting behavior intervention we not only need
to consider differences between consumer groups in cognition, attitude and behavioral
features, but, more importantly, various measures should be taken to produce changes in
The key to publicity and education should be increasing knowledge. In this survey, we
ﬁnd that currently a high percentage of Chinese urban residents is still not clear about what
wild animals are protected. Undoubtedly, this poses a major obstacle to regulating con-
sumer behavior. Due to the pertinence of people’s cognitive level and their attitude toward
wild animal consumption, it is a crucial task to cultivate the correct cognition among
general residents through publicity and education.
1514 Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516
For widespread change, it will be necessary to combine the strategies of publicity and
education. Through the analysis of the cognition of the scope of wild animal protection and
consumer attitude, a high percentage of the ‘‘threat theory’’ and ‘‘utilization theory’’ groups
adopt the consumption attitude of ‘‘utilization value.’’ Meanwhile, the percentage of those
with the incorrect attitude toward wild animal consumption is highest among the ‘‘utili-
zation theory’’ group. This indicates the strong inﬂuence the utilization theory has on
people’s behavior. Therefore, publicity and education should be aimed at changing this
mentality and making it clear that all wild animals should be protected, which will cer-
tainly take a long time.
We may also utilize other publicity strategies suited for speciﬁc stages/groups of
consumption. For example, in analyzing reasons for not consuming wild animals, we ﬁnd
that a high percentage of people have never consumed wild animals because they regard
the behavior unhealthy or they do not like it. Different groups have different reasons. The
percentage of those who regard it as unhealthy is higher among people aged 46–55 than
among other age groups. A high percentage of people aged 56–60 and 18–25 do not like it.
The percentage of those who think it is not right to consume wild animals is far lower
among people with primary school education and below than among other groups. A high
percentage of junior high school and high school graduates think it unhealthy, while a high
percentage of those with bachelor’s degree or above do not like to consume wild animals
for different reasons. This indicates that we may guide the audiences by cultivating healthy
consumption notions using various approaches in a short time. For example, we may
educate young people not to eat wild animals and encourage them to abstain from wild
animals early on. Meanwhile, we may imbue middle-aged people and those with low
education with the view that wild animal consumption is not healthy. Of course, as stated
earlier, even if we guide the audiences with the ‘‘unhealthy’’ view, it is also necessary to
popularize correct knowledge and conduct education.
1. One major strategy should be to prevent wildlife from reaching the markets. Through
this survey, it was found that villages along the border act as temporary stops for
smugglers. If paid, villagers will often help the smugglers to escape, which strongly
increases the difﬁculty in seizing criminals. A program needs to be implemented that
targets key villages and simultaneously provides community development and
biodiversity education projects to arouse their environment protection awareness,
develop the local economy and convince villagers of the value of working together to
2. As demonstrated by the survey results, heavy wildlife consumers are often those who
are young, well-educated, and have a high income. Without correct knowledge and
understanding of wildlife consumption and protection, university students, as the next
potential consumers, are the main target to be educated. Schools are good places for
knowledge input. As a starting point, education programs should be developed for
university students and then move forward from there.
Acknowledgements We are grateful for the grant from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to
support this project. We thank the support of CITES Management Authority of China, and its Kunming,
Guangxi and Sichuan Branch Ofﬁces. We are grateful to Chun Li, Fang Zhou, and all participants in the ﬁeld
trade survey, and the Horizonkey Information and Consulting Co., Ltd. who conducted and implemented the
public awareness survey for this project. We are also grateful for Xue Wang, Stacy Vynne, Clare Sierawski
and Chantal Elkin for reviewing the English language of the manuscript.
Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17:1493–1516 1515
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