In southwestern China, ten people will stand trial in a giant panda killing. Arrests were made on suspicion of poaching the female panda, and buying and selling its meat on China’s black market.
Although Chinese officials say poaching of giant pandas is rare, it does still happen, and they are believed to fetch hefty prices on the black market due to their being on the endangered species list.
The death of the giant panda has caused a stir among thousands of Chinese people, as pandas are considered a national treasure in the country, and are protected under Chinese law. Users of the Chinese social media site Weibo took to the internet to profess their outrage at the panda killing, and demand arrests be made.
“To the Chinese, giant panda is more than an animal. It’s a spiritual symbol. The case needs to be dealt with severely to stop any further incidents like this,” wrote one user with the name Gloomy Thick Eyebrows.
The arrests came after a raid in March in which authorities found 22 pounds of the panda’s meat, skull fragments, two leg bones, a gall bladder, and parts of the pelt.
Chinese police traced the panda killing back to two brothers, identified only by the surname Wang, who laid out a trap for what they believed to be a wild animal killing one of the brother’s sheep. After the trap had been broken, the brothers tracked the panda’s footprints into the woods with a hunting dog, where they shot it twice.
“Only after he shot what he described as a ‘big animal’ did Wang realise it was a panda,” reported China Daily, “The injured animal climbed a tree, and Wang shot it again.”
The pair then later butchered the panda and fetched around 4,800 Yuan (approximately $775 USD) for 77 pounds of meat, and four paws. As panda’s are generally considered to be vegetarian, it’s unclear whether or not it was, in fact, the panda that had killed the sheep.
Under Chinese law, the deliberate killing and selling of giant pandas carries a 10-year prison sentence, or worse, depending on the circumstances.
“Smugglers of giant pandas shall have a punishment of at least a 10-year sentence and confiscation of property; under grave circumstances, life sentence or even death sentence together with a total confiscation of property shall be applied.”
In the 1980’s the “grave circumstances” were enacted in nine cases, where people received life in prison for panda killings. Arrests were also made of at least 200 people for poaching during that decade.
[Photo Credit Paul Gilham/Getty Images]