Expert makes detailed suggestions for the amendment of China’s Wildlife Protection Law

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The Legal Work Committee of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, an independent Chinese environmental organisation, hosted a seminar on wildlife protection on the 6th of November. One of the points was to collect specific suggestions for the draft of the revised Wildlife Protection Law, which was recently made public in order to gather feedback. Over 10,000 people participated online, while the host and other experts joined the seminar in person. Dr. Zhu Jinfeng, a forensic scientist from the Academy of Forensic Science, provided insightful advice (in written form) for the amendment of the law.

Proposals to amend the Wildlife Protection Law were first initiated by nine organisations, including several prestigious Chinese universities, at the onset of the pandemic in February. Soon after the proposals were received by the Legal Work Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the NPC responded with new restrictions on the trade and consumption of wildlife. It is reported that these new restrictions will remain valid until the law is officially amended and passed by the NPC in the near future.

In regards to the focus of the legal amendment, Dr. Zhu pointed out a number of prominent incompatibilities existing within the current wildlife protection programmes. For instance, he noted an incompatibility between the broadness of the types of animals being protected and the shortage of labour, facilities and resources available to protect wildlife. Dr. Zhu holds that in the existing law the objects of protection are referred to as “wildlife”, which includes a great variety of animals. But the challenge in practice is that there are limited departments, organisations, front-line staff that are working on wildlife protection and effective strategies available that can be employed to protect these animals.

Another incompatibility exists between universal protection strategies and special methods for key objects of protection. The existing law does not distinguish specific methods and strategies for wild animals according to their categories (for instance endangered animals, vulnerable animals and threatened animals); instead, only generic rules are introduced in the law. However, this approach will not be a productive one for wildlife protection due to the differing situations and needs of different animals. Furthermore, Dr. Zhu argues that the incompatibility between wildlife protection and human welfare is also a problem that needs to be tackled, since the ultimate goal of wildlife protection is to achieve the harmonious co-existence of human beings and wildlife. While the existing law does not have enough emphasis on this point, the amended law needs to display it in a clear fashion.

Based on these incompatibilities, Dr. Zhu provides some suggestions for the amendment of the law. He suggests, for instance, that in the amended law the concept of “harmonious co-existence of humans and wildlife” should be made more prominent by being placed in the first article of the law. Meanwhile, the duties and responsibilities of government bodies, organisations and communities regarding animal protection should be specified in order to avoid confusion and conflicts. In addition, Dr. Zhu recommends that the list of animals belonging to each category should be analysed and decided collectively by organisations from different sectors, with the aim of reaching a more sensible and scientific result.