Commissions | 29.03.2023

China’s Revision of The Wildlife Protection Law

When it comes to wildlife protection, all eyes are directed at China, where the use of wild animals in traditional Chinese medicine is common. This has been a controversial topic for some time, encouraging international and national efforts, throughout the years, to reduce the use of wildlife products. One of these measures is the Wildlife Protection Law, a set of regulations governing the protection and management of wildlife in China.

Recently, at the end of 2022, China passed a draft revision to the law, implementing several changes to the legislation. Amongst these changes is the expansion of the list of species that are afforded special protection. The new law now includes a wider range of threatened species, such as pangolins, otters, and wild camels. The revision also bans the consumption of wild animals that are not bred for consumption, extending to the use of wild animals in traditional Chinese medicine. Additionally, it establishes a system for registering and certifying captive breeding operations. The revised law is expected to come into effect on May 1, 2023.

Whether the revision brings a significant change to the legislation is debatable. Nevertheless, one of the more interesting provisions in the revised law creates a mechanism for public participation in raising awareness for the protection of wildlife, encouraging citizens to report violations and participate in conservation efforts. It emphasizes the need to combine strong private action with governmental efforts to ensure wildlife protection. This piece claims that such a combination should be implemented on the international level as well, considering that a significant portion of wildlife products are being trafficked into China from various geographics worldwide.
The need for private action stems from the fact that illegal trade and movement of products into China is facilitated by various entities and infrastructures supporting criminal networks alongside the trade route. Wildlife trafficking is a highly profitable illicit trade that generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Organized criminal enterprises operate in a vast network of trafficking routes, often utilizing well-established infrastructures such as financial systems, communication technologies, ports, airports, and transportation networks, to transport and distribute their illegal goods. All of the above benefit greatly from enabling wildlife trafficking. This naturally creates a strong financial incentive to actively support this crime or at least turn a blind eye.
It is crucial to recognize the role of these entities in supporting wildlife trafficking to better understand the importance of private initiatives. There are various ways in which private action can play a significant role in ensuring wildlife protection. For example, companies can implement responsible sourcing practices and adopt policies to ensure that their operations do not harm wildlife. Citizens can also play a role refraining from using wildlife products and supporting and promoting initiatives aimed at discouraging entities from wildlife trafficking. For example, initiating campaigns to raise awareness about the impact of the ivory trade on elephant populations and encourage people not to buy ivory products. Finally, consumers can use their purchasing power to lower the demand for wildlife products.

Overall, while government intervention is critical in ensuring wildlife protection, private action can complement these efforts and play an important role in reducing the demand for wildlife products, protecting threatened species and their habitats, and contributing to the overall conservation of biodiversity.

Inbar Zadok
CEO & Co-Founder of Materra
Tel Aviv, Israel