南非的兩個非政府組織「EMS基金會」和「禁止動物貿易（Ban Animal Trading）」揭露，黑猩猩、孟加拉虎、狼、非洲野犬和獅子等數千種瀕臨滅絕的野生動物從南非銷往中國，時而違反瀕危物種貿易公約（Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species﹐CITES）。
他們的報告「南非與中國間可恥的野生動物貿易（Breaking Point: Uncovering South Africa’s Shameful Wildlife Trade With China）」直指，相關法規和審核流程毫無作用、動物福利和自然保護原則遭到忽視，並提供確切犯罪證據。
其中一個案例是，2019年有18隻黑猩猩合法從哈特比斯普特大壩蛇與動物公園（Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park）出口到北京野生動物園，但哈特比斯普特大壩蛇與動物公園並不是CITES註冊黑猩猩繁殖設施。
Chimpanzees, Bengal tigers, wolves, wild dogs and lions are among thousands of endangered wild animals exported from South Africa to China, sometimes in contravention of regulations imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), often in shameful conditions.
The findings of the report, “Breaking Point: Uncovering South Africa’s Shameful Wildlife Trade With China,” provide damning evidence of dysfunctional regulations and permitting procedures, criminality and greed alongside a deep neglect of animal welfare concerns and nature conservation principles.
Gambling With Global Health
The hard-hitting investigative report published by two South African organisations, the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading, shows that between 2015 and 2019, at least 5,035 live wild animals were legally exported from South Africa to China.
This “extremely conservative estimate” is based on the painstaking inspection of hundreds of export permits, which are often difficult to obtain, and on in-person visits to the destinations in China to which the animals were supposedly delivered.
The list of animals exported comprises an array of species ranging from the kudu and giraffe to chimpanzees, African penguins, wolves, ring-tailed lemurs and no fewer than 45 Bengal tigers.
Trading living wild animals on international markets considerably increases the risk of future outbreaks of zoonotic illnesses like COVID-19.
n the case of COVID-19, there is scientific evidence to suggest that highly-trafficked and endangered Malayan pangolins sold in Chinese wet markets acted as an intermediary link between virus-hosting bats and humans.
Globally, exports were estimated at some 100 million animals per year in 2014. In China, alone, the trade and consumption of wild animals – much of it illegal and most of it unregulated – is valued at a staggering 520 billion yuan (US$74 billion).
It should come as no surprise then, that the “multiple of one billion direct and indirect contacts among wildlife, humans, and domestic animals” resulting from the wildlife trade annually, represents a major public health problem and that mathematical models confirm the dramatic increase in the probability of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.
As a major exporter of live wild animals, South Africa’s considerable contribution to this multi-billion rand business not only potentially exposes local workers to diseases – known or as yet undiscovered – but it also helps to legitimise an industry that puts people around the globe at risk of deadly pandemics and the economic mayhem they trigger.
Astonishingly, the report notes that South African exports continued even at the time when China reached its peak of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Poorly Regulated Trade
All of the trade in wild animals described in the report is supposedly legal. At least some of it is meant to be monitored and controlled through a system of regulations under CITES.
In inspecting hundreds of South African export permits, however, the authors have documented numerous instances in which the CITES regulations were treated casually at best and disregarded entirely at worst.
Examples include incorrectly dated, undated and unsigned permits, permits listing incorrect numbers, ages and places of origin for the animals involved, as well as permits giving untraceable or fictitious destination addresses in China and illegal shipments, masked as legitimate exports.
There appears to be little vetting of traders – both exporters and importers – some of which have in the past been implicated in illicit wildlife trafficking themselves or been associated with criminal smuggling syndicates.
In an illustrative case, 18 chimpanzees were legally exported from the Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park – not a CITES-registered chimpanzee breeding facility – to the Beijing Wild Animal Park in 2019.
According to the researchers, the permit documents include no evidence to confirm that the chimpanzees, a species listed on CITES’ Appendix I, indicating its status as threatened with extinction, were either legally acquired by the seller or bred in captivity rather than caught in the wild as is required by CITES regulations. In the absence of this crucial information, a permit should never have been issued.
In another instance, the unsigned import permit for 10 cheetahs, also an Appendix I species, sold to China’s Zhengzhou Zoo in 2018, was only issued after the export permit was issued, in violation of CITES regulations.
In the case of animals that don’t appear on any CITES Appendix, of which there were at least 2,465 between 2014 and 2019, trade is even less regulated, with their origin or destination frequently unknown.
This includes African Wild Dogs, 35 of which went to China in 2018 and 2019, even though they are classified as endangered in South Africa and included on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s authoritative Red List.
Of the 1,394 meerkats exported during the period investigated, the destination of 1,154 is unknown. While 321 giraffes were sold to Jinan Wildlife World, a visit to this zoo found only 16 individuals present with the whereabouts of the others unknown.
According to the report, “the majority of the permits were in breach of CITES regulations, and contained one or more false, vague or questionable declarations.” The authors conclude that in most cases “the exports that have been permitted should never have been allowed to take place.”
While “the ‘box-ticking exercise’ that defines CITES … creates the illusion of a well-controlled system of compliance, efficiency and verification and therefore protection,” the distressing picture that emerges is one of an extremely lucrative trade riddled with frequently exploited regulatory gaps and loopholes along with rules that are scandalously lacking in transparency, implementation, oversight or enforcement on either the South African or Chinese side.
Instead of offering protection for individual animals, endangered species and human health, this system facilitates illegal trafficking by providing a front for laundering animals caught in the wild into the nominally legal trade and stimulating demand for them in Chinese markets.