This Chinese animal vendor is releasing hundreds of snakes into the wild after the authorities banned their sale in response to the coronavirus outbreak which left him with a reptile stock of over half a tonne.
Liao Guiqiu, from the city of Hengyang in Central China’s Hunan Province, trades in captive-bred king ratsnake (Elaphe carinata), which are consumed in soup and also infused in traditional Chinese medicinal brews.
His retail business is run out of Jiangdong Hengzhou Market, which stocks a similar catalogue of animals found at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in COVID-19 epicentre Wuhan.
After health experts agreed that the deadly respiratory disease likely originated in the Wuhan market where exotic meat such as snake, koala, badger and bat were being sold, the Chinese government suspended animal trading on 16th January.
On 24th February, Beijing announced an all-out ban on wild animal trading and consumption, leaving countless licensed vendors like Mr Liao unprepared.
According to Mr Liao, his warehouse stockpile includes more than 500 kilogrammes (1,100 lbs) of live snakes, which have a total value of more than 100,000 RMB (11,125 GBP).
He has received permission from the local forestry authority to release his king ratsnakes, which get their name from their habit of eating other snakes, into the wild.
Mr Liao is now setting free batches of around 50 kilogrammes (110 lbs) at a time.
He told local media: “We have to obey the government’s advice. If they say we can’t sell them, then we can’t sell them.
“Of course, I’m heartbroken. It’s nearly 200,000 RMB (22,250 GBP) worth of stock.”
Authorities across China are clamping down on wildlife poaching which fuels black-market demand for exotic meat.
They have also seized large stockpiles of animals, both dead and alive, from licensed vendors who must hand over their stock or destroy them while the ban continues.
The Hengyang Forestry Bureau said it had formally charged 16 people in 12 cases of wildlife trade offences since 16th January.
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