Chinese appetite for exotic foods driving trade in endangered species

Many Chinese believe that wild game improves health. Whether or not that’s true, the country’s enormous market for rare and exotic “delicacies” is not improving the health of endangered species. “Just in the last two years, 12 to 13 species have had to be CITES-listed because of China’s food trade,” said Gail Cochrane of Animals Asia Foundation, referring to the list maintained under the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. But such listing has done little to slow the trade in leopard cat, porcupine, box terrapin, and pangolins, which are sold in open-air markets across southern China after being imported (or smuggled) from Vietnam, Burma, or Thailand. Some species that are not yet CITES-listed are headed in that direction, like the once-common water snake. While top Chinese officials have condemned the eating of wild game, it has not slowed a practice that may ultimately wipe out the very creatures it treats as delicacies.