China imposes serious prison time for wildlife offences

China is overwhelmingly the world's biggest consumer of illegal wildlife products.  Now, Chinese citizens caught buying banned species could spend serious time in the clink.

Happy hanging onto its own skin (photo by Priya Davidar)

Happy hanging onto its own skin (photo by Priya Davidar)

This is welcome news to those who've watched massive poaching of elephants and rhinos in recent years to supply China's voracious appetite for ivory and rhino horn.  Other exploited species include tigers, pangolins, and many species of sharks, which are killed to make shark-fin soup.

In total, some 420 rare or endangered species will be protected under a reinterpretation of Chinese law by the the National People's Congress.  Those caught breaking the law could be sentenced to over 10 years in prison, depending on the offense.

This latest measure comes on the heels of other Chinese-government efforts to discourage the domestic trade in illegal ivory.

ALERT hasn't hesitated to criticize China for predatory practices, but it's also important to laud China's efforts when important progress is being made.  Credit where credit is due.

Australia called 'most hostile' to the environment

The New Zealand Herald and The Independent have just posed a provocative question: Is Australia now the world's most environmentally hostile country? 

Wake me when it's over...

Wake me when it's over...

One could certainly list other nations with dubious environmental records, but Australia's place in the sun has fallen in the eyes of many, given a growing list of questionable policies from the conservative Tony Abbott government.  A partial list includes:

- The government's request to remove World Heritage protection for a large expanse of Tasmanian eucalyptus forest, which harbors some of the world's tallest trees

 -The decision to dump millions of tonnes of dredging spoil on the Great Barrier Reef (the UN has already threatened to list the Reef as "in danger" when its World Heritage monitoring committee meets in June)

- A well-documented resistance to meaningful action to combat climate change

- Allowing Western Australia to proceed with a large-scale cull of great white, tiger and bull sharks, in the face of strong opposition from many marine scientists

- A variety of alarming measures that are degrading the status and safeguards for Australian protected areas

- Efforts to seriously weaken Australia's recently passed anti-illegal logging bill (see our ALERT blog on this issue)

The leader of the Australian Green Party, Senator Christine Milne, has said such changes could make Australia a "global laughing-stock".  Let's hope the Abbott government sees the light in time.