Dozens of seal pups were released into the wild in northern China after being rescued from traffickers back in February, reported the BBC. Although many of the pups did not survive due to their extremely weak condition when they were found, 37 were successfully released on May 10.
On February 11, police found around 100 seal pups found in a shed in the Chinese city of Dalian that had been taken from the wild at a young age to be sold to aquariums and commercial venues. As the seals had been taken from their mothers too early and not been allowed to sufficiently breastfeed, many did not survive after they were found. However, 61 were sent to rehabilitation centers in China’s Liaoning province to regain their health and eventually be released back into the wild.
The first batch of pups was released earlier this past April after being deemed healthy enough to survive on their own. The remaining 37 were set free into the waters around Dalian this past week. All pups were fitted with GPS trackers before their release to ensure that they could be tracked by researchers in an attempt to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
According to the China News Service (ECNS), an increasing number of seal pups have been captured and poached in recent years and later sold to aquariums or restaurants attempting to entertain and draw in customers. Additionally, male seals are frequently targeted for use in traditional Chinese medicine as their penises are believed to hold aphrodisiac qualities.
CHINA: Our partner group was thrilled to attend the release back to the sea of 37 spotted seal pups rescued by Dalian police from aquarium traffickers who had snatched them from the wild. 71 pups total were saved, 61 of whom have been released, the last 10 following soon! ???? pic.twitter.com/qG1xj1yrig— Humane Society Int'l (@HSIGlobal) May 11, 2019
Under China’s Criminal Law, illegally catching wildlife species found on the endangered species list or protected under state laws can be met with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. In regard to the seal case in Dalian, eight people have been arrested for their involvement, but it is not yet known if they will face a penalty for their actions.
The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation has spoken out against the lack of regulations that allow aquariums to purchase animals from private sellers. and argues that they must be prohibited from purchasing seals.
Peter Li of Humane Society International commented on the Dalian seal pups in a news release published by Geek.
“We are thrilled that our Chinese partner group, VShine, was able to send animal welfare observers to the release of these seal pups back to the wild,” Li’s statement read. “Sadly, China’s growing obsession for keeping marine species like seals and turtles in captivity is fueling wildlife crime such as this, which causes immense animal suffering and loss of life.”