Wildlife Watch

Seized: 100 Endangered Sharks Sold for Food

In this week’s crime blotter: shark meat sales, hidden songbirds, and an ivory smuggling attempt.

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Endangered hammerhead sharks are poached to feed demand for their meat and fins.

In horrifying food news: Photos emerged this week of nearly 100 endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks for sale at a fish market in Sanya, in southern China’s Hainan Province, according to Chinese media. An outraged passerby posted photos of the animals on Chinese social media. The sharks were being sold for 15 yuan ($2.31) a pound.  

Scalloped hammerhead sharks can be found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world. They get their name from the scalloped shape of the front edge of their unique head structure.

An international treaty, which China is a signatory to, restricts trade in the species. Despite this protection, the sharks are widely exploited to meet demand for their meat and shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in China.

Local authorities seized the hammerheads. They’re still investigating the case, but have said that the fishermen didn’t realize the animals were protected.

Some other wildlife crime busts, convictions, and confiscations around the world announced this week:

SAME OLD SONG: Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, arrested a passenger who allegedly attempted to smuggle endangered songbirds to Taiwan, according to Thanhnien News. The man was found with 18 live birds hidden under his pants. The birds included protected species such as the white-rumped shama and melodious laughingthrush.

IVORY THIEF: Police nabbed a Chinese national at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, Kenya, who’s accused of attempting to smuggle worked ivory worth about $600, says the Star. The suspect was on his way from Cameroon to Guangzhou, China.

PANGOLIN STEALERS: Forest officials busted three men suspected of poaching two pangolins in a wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka, a state in southwest India, reports the New Indian Express. At the scene, law enforcement officers found cooked pangolin meat and scales, as well as a dead pangolin. Pangolins are believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world.

IMPRISONED POACHER: A Chinese court sentenced a man to ten years in prison for the illegal transport of wild animal products, including items made from ivory, rhino horn, and lions’ teeth, reports ShanghaiDaily.com. The man attempted to move the products from China’s Guangxi region to the city of Fangchenggang, and then intended to smuggle the items to neighboring countries, the court said.

TIMBER SMUGGLING: Police in Atmakur, a town in India’s Andhra Pradesh, arrested four people for allegedly smuggling 23 red sanders logs, according to the Times of India. The suspects tried to flee, but police eventually caught them. Native to India, red sanders trees are endangered.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas tongwildlife@ngs.org.

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