Grace Ge Gabriel has been the driving force behind the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)'s China program, campaigning for the protection of China's own species, as well as those imported into the country illegally or with scant regard for animal welfare. Grace, who set up China's first raptor rescue center, launched an anti-poaching operation to protect the Tibetan antelope, has also helped to draft China’s first Animal Welfare Law. She spoke to RFA's Mandarin service about a worrying trend among the country's super-rich, who are paying huge sums for stuffed 'specimens' of farm-raised endangered species:
[There are companies] which are taking tiger skins and bear skins from farms in China and turning them into 'specimens.' This is actually illegal, but the endangered species protection departments in China turn a blind eye.
The people who buy these 'specimens' are all nouveau riche who have lots of money and power, but no education.
There are vast profits to be made in the endangered species 'specimens' business, and it's something that government enforcement agencies aren't dealing with very seriously.
A lot of these 'specimens' are made from animals that have been raised on farms by humans, but turning them into specimens will give momentum to the market for wild animal products, by stimulating demand and encouraging consumption.
If people see the rich and powerful doing it, even if they previously had no desire or need for these products, then they will follow suit and imitate them. The result will be to give the impression that the trade in wild animal products is legal.
Actually, Chinese people learned a profound lesson about the threat to endangered species in the 1990s with the large-scale hunting of the Tibetan antelope. One of the main factors driving the trade was the huge amount of demand in Western markets for Tibetan antelope wool.
Later, the market for Tibetan antelope wool shrank hugely after a lot of governments intervened, and the Tibetan antelope was able to escape extinction.
Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.