Pangolin Slaughtering Video Sparks Anger, Investigation
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2017-08-25 15:34:41

A gruesome online video that shows a Chinese man slaughtering a pangolin — one of the country’s nationally protected species — has been met with backlash from netizens and prompted a police investigation.

The video, which first appeared online in China earlier this month, was filmed in Cambodia. Chinese police were able to verify the man’s nationality based on his accent and by questioning his friend, the person who first posted the video in China.

In the stomach-churning clip, a man with a stocky build can be seen smashing the animal’s head with the side of a large knife before proceeding to hack at its body. It takes the man just one minute to kill the creature, to the accompaniment of clanging knives and Cantonese curses.

A screenshot from the video in which a man kills a pangolin.

A screenshot from the video in which a man kills a pangolin.

Some Chinese consider pangolin meat a delicacy, and the animal’s hard, protective scales are rumored to have medicinal properties. More than 11,000 pangolins have been hunted over the past decade in China, according to a report from TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization established by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Chinese authorities have determined that the man is from Jieyang, a city in southern China’s Guangdong province, and that he runs a food and beverage-related business in Cambodia. The man’s friend who posted the one-and-a-half-minute video did so from Shenzhen, a city in the southern part of that province near Hong Kong.

The forestry branch of the Jieyang police has reportedly been tasked with investigating the case.

In a telephone interview with Sixth Tone on Friday, a police officer in Jieyang said the fact that the man was abroad made bringing him to justice more difficult. “If he were here in China, we wouldn’t hesitate to detain him,” said the officer, who hung up before giving his name and title and could not be reached again.

The man in the video had no record of entry to suggest that he was back in China, the officer said, adding that police have been trying to persuade him to return and explain his actions.

Anyone who kills a pangolin faces a maximum sentence of seven years in jail, the officer said. China’s criminal law, however, indicates that the prison sentence can be even longer, depending on the gravity of the abuse.

Netizen reactions on microblog platform Weibo were swift and angry, with some people calling for more severe punishments than those outlined in the law. One user who commented under the handle “Trump Is Not Reliable” even suggested that the perpetrator of the pangolin massacre be subjected to similar treatment himself.

It’s not the first time this year that images of people eating and killing pangolins have prompted public outrage and law enforcement investigations. In February, it was discovered that a Weibo user had boasted in 2015 of eating pangolin at a dinner with government officials.

Also in February, a woman in Shenzhen was reprimanded by both angry netizens and state broadcaster China Central Television for eating pangolin for its supposed health benefits.

The police officer in Jieyang said the next step is to determine whether the man has violated any Cambodian laws and, if so, to seek cooperation from the authorities there.

He added that he and his colleagues had not ruled out prosecuting the man’s friend for posting the video online.

The pangolin killing comes in the same week that Jackie Chan, the famous martial arts movie star, taught three pangolins kung fu as part of an advertising campaign for wildlife protection organizations WildAid and The Nature Conservancy. Aimed at raising public awareness of the need to protect pangolins, the campaign’s slogan is: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

Editor: Colum Murphy.

(Header image: A pangolin is seen in the wild in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, July 13, 2007. VCG)