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China: New Wildlife Protection Law

(Aug. 5, 2016) On July 2, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) revised the Wildlife Protection Law.  This is the first time the Law has been substantively revised since its promulgation in the 1980s.  The revised Law will take effect on January 1, 2017.  (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Yesheng Dongwu Baohu Fa [PRC Wildlife Protection Law] (2016 Law), XINHUANET (July 2, 2016); 2016 Wildlife Protection Law, China Law Translate website (unofficial  English translation); Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Yesheng Dongwu Baohu Fa (adopted by the NPC Standing Committee on Nov. 8, 1988, as amended on Aug. 28, 2004) (2004 Law), THE LAWS OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA 341-349 (2004).)

Highlights of the new 2016 Law are as follows.

Breeding of Wildlife Species

The old Wildlife Protection Law encouraged domestication and breeding of wildlife for various purposes, including human utilization.  (2004 Law, arts. 4 & 17.)  The new Law in general deletes the language encouraging domestication and breeding of wildlife other than in those programs carried out by scientific research institutes for preservation purposes.  (2016 Law, art. 25.)  Under the new Law, the government will no longer award “outstanding achievements in the domestication and breeding of wildlife” as provided in the old Law.  (2016 Law, art. 9; 2004 Law, art. 4.)

However, captive breeding of wildlife for commercial purposes is still allowed, as long as a license is obtained from provincial-level government authorities.  (2016 Law, art. 25.)  China reportedly  has thousands of tigers on about 200 farms, mostly born into captivity and many kept in appalling conditions.  (Simon Denyer, Tiger Farms Stoke Chinese Demand for Tiger Wine and Drugs, Putting Wild Cats in Peril, WASHINGTON POST (Jan. 1, 2015).)

The new Law also requires captive breeding of wildlife under special national protection to “be beneficial to the protection of the species and its scientific research,” and non-destructive of the species in the wild.  (2016 Law, art. 26).  Moreover, according to the Law,

it shall be ensured that there is necessary movement space and conditions of living, breeding, health, and sanitation for wildlife in accordance to their behaviours, ensure the concerned party has sites, facilities, and technologies suitable to the breeding purpose, types and development scale, and comply with relevant technical standards and disease prevention requirements … .  (Id.)

The Law also stresses that wild animals shall not be mistreated.  (Id.)

Trade in Protected Wild Animals and Animal Products

The Law in general prohibits the sale, purchase, or use of rare or near-extinction wild animals, and their products, that are under special national protection.  However, exceptions are made for trade in these wildlife species and their products for certain purposes, including scientific research on, captive breeding of, and public exhibitions or performances involving wild animals.  Under these excepted circumstances, an approval must be obtained from the provincial-level government authorities, and a special label must be obtained and used to ensure tracking.  (2016 Law, art. 27.)

Trade in tiger bones and rhinoceros horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, is officially banned in China by a 1993 State Council circular.  (Guowuyuan Guanyu Jinzhi Xiniu Jiao he Hugu Maoyi de Tongzhi [State Council Notice on Banning Trade in Rhino Horns and Tiger Bones] (Guo Fa [1993] No. 39, May 29, 1993).)  Nevertheless, international observers have found that tiger farms openly marketed products containing tiger parts and many of them stockpiled tiger carcasses in the hope that a legalized tiger trade would one day be reopened.  (INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE, MADE IN CHINA: THE ILLICIT TRADE IN TIGER BONE IN CHINA (Sept. 2006) at 3.)

Protection of Wildlife Habitats

The 2016 Law has some new provisions on the protection of wildlife habitats.  For example, the Law restricts construction projects in nature reserves.  According to the new Law, sites and routes for construction projects such as airports, railways, roads, waterworks, etc. shall avoid nature reserves and migration paths of wildlife.  (2016 Law, art. 13(2).)  When it is impossible to avoid the nature reserves and migration paths, the projects will build corridors for wildlife and migratory fish facilities and institute “other measures to eliminate or mitigate the adverse impact on wildlife.”  (Id.)

Prohibited Hunting Methods

The new Law expands the hunting methods prohibited by the old Law to include poisons, explosives, electronic shock, electronic trap devices, snares, leg-hold traps, makeshift guns, etc.  Nighttime hunting with lights, guerrilla-style hunting, and hunting by destroying nests or using fire, smoke, or nets are also generally prohibited.  (Id. art. 24.)

Key Unchanged Provisions

All wildlife resources belong to the state, according to both the old and the new laws.  (Id. art. 3; 2004 Law, art. 3.)  The new Law also continues to authorize the forestry and fishery departments under the State Council to be in charge of the protection of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, respectively.  (2016 Law, art. 7; 2004 Law, art. 7.)