Global Times (China)

Chinese citizens arrested in Madagascar for smuggling rare reptiles

By Zhang Han Source

Could negatively impact scientists’ future research: insiders

The photo taken on November 21, 2013, shows a chameleon on the tree in the Marojejy National Park in northeast Madagascar. Photo: Xinhua

The arrest of two Chinese citizens, who were in a parent-child scientific education tour in Madagascar, for smuggling rare reptiles may have a negative influence on Chinese scientists’ future research, insiders warned.

The Chinese Embassy in Madagascar confirmed the arrest with the Global Times on Wednesday, warning that the two citizens may face “strict regulations and punishment.”

Madagascar is home to almost 25,000 species of wild animals, with a good number being endangered.

Local police are still investigating the case, the official said.

Madagascar’s environment ministry said the two people were arrested on Saturday local time at Antananarivo airport for allegedly illegally taking three species, chameleons, lizards and millipedes. “Airport surveillance will be strengthened” so that such incidents will not be repeated, said the ministry.

An anonymous source in Madagascar told the Global Times on Wednesday that the two were tour guide Ma Xiaokun and a parent in the 19-person tour group.

“The news has spread out in Madagascar and had a bad influence on Chinese scientists’ legal activities in the country,” the anonymous source said.

Ma is a Beijing-based insect lover who claims to be an expert from an education union under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China Youth Daily reported in October  2017.

Ma had long been using the CAS’ fame for personal gain for years, a scientist close to CAS told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. The academy’s Sina Weibo account reposted a similar statement on Tuesday.

The embassy reminded Chinese people to abide by local laws after the incident and offered a list of illegal items.

Those found guilty of smuggling rare animals and plants from the African country could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and slapped a fine of 200 million ariaries ($56,600), according to the Red Star News.

The incident broke out on the internet when Weibo user “Daiwatanshijie” on Monday published an article on Sina Weibo, charging Ma, along with another team guide Wu Yi, of encouraging parents in his group to smuggle rare reptiles.

The article said the chameleon Madagascar ministry showed on its website looked  like the one Ma posted on his WeChat moment on Friday. An article in October 2018 by this net user blamed Ma and Wu for smuggling animals and encouraging children to make contact with wild animals without protection.

However, a Weibo user, who claims to among the 19-person team, said the detained parent voluntarily carried the reptile in response to the Monday article.