2017-07-26 09:52:03

When a young man in southern China live-streamed himself catching protected snakes in the wild, he failed to consider that local police might be among his viewers.

The 24-year-old amateur herpetologist, surnamed Zhao, was apprehended by police in April after broadcasting himself hunting in the lush mountains of Ruyuan County, Guangdong province, local newspaper Guangzhou Daily reported Tuesday.

Animal-wranglers were once common on China’s live-streaming websites, but in March, the State Forestry Administration announced an immediate crackdown, as — live-streamed or not — hunting nationally protected animals violates China’s wildlife protection law.

According to police, Zhao carefully planned his broadcasts by bringing along his own snakes, which he would release, hunt, and “capture” repeatedly. The whole operation appears to have been an elaborate, if not misleading, business opportunity: Zhao encouraged his 200,000 followers to inquire about purchasing the animals he caught.

One of Zhao’s videos shows him catching a nonvenomous rat snake and a turtle called a “red-eared slider,” but his main job involved raising and selling nationally protected cobras on an illegal animal farm. When police raided the property, they discovered 74 cobras and one Tibetan macaque.

Li Wenjiang, deputy director of Guangdong’s forestry public security bureau, told Guangzhou Daily that live-streamed wildlife hunting is irresponsible because it encourages others to do the same, and that regardless of whether they are protected, animals should not have to be subjected to harassment by humans.

With the rise of the internet, wildlife merchants have managed to sell their protected animals on an increasing variety of channels, including niche online forums, messaging apps QQ and WeChat, microblog platform Weibo, and websites for secondhand goods.

In May, a man surnamed Deng was caught by police in Guangzhou after selling endangered animals on a secondhand marketplace under e-commerce giant Alibaba. When police tracked down Deng’s suppliers, they discovered more than 900 boa constrictors and 200 monitor lizards.

According to official figures from Guangdong’s public security bureau, authorities uncovered 60 cases between March and June involving wildlife and wildlife products valued at around 7.5 million yuan ($1.1 million). All told, more than 11,700 protected animals — living and dead — were involved.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A snake wraps itself around the shoulders of a tourist and an acrobat in Nanping, Fujian province, Aug. 13, 2013. Wang Longzhi/VCG)