By Zhang Qifeng, Jiang Gan, Liu Xun
Cantonese appetites are gobbling up endangered species including the pangolin, giant salamander, wild snakes and owls – facilitated by lax policing and a belief in medicinal benefits.
It’s not yet light, but Mr Qiu of Foshan in Guangdong is busy transferring king ratsnakes from a cage into a sack. He then tips them into a boiling pot.
He’s been running his snake-soup shop for over a decade.
In winter, residents of Guangdong province, south China, pay particular attention to diet and nutrition, meaning the shop is constantly busy. A bowl of piping hot snake soup is a breakfast favourite for many locals looking to ward off the cold. “We Cantonese have always believed that snake meat can treat illnesses, plus its nutritious and keeps out the cold,” Qiu says.
The market for meat from wild animals is on the increase, with restaurants doing good – if under the table – business. Protected animals such as monitor lizards and pangolins are hunted and traded illegally, eventually ending up on diners’ plates.
The reputation the Cantonese have for eating wild animals is well-deserved: the long-standing tradition is a part of the culture in Lingnan (the area covering Guangdong and surrounding provinces). An employee with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s China office said that the Cantonese “will eat anything” – and the most sought-after delicacies are endangered species.
Among the most regularly eaten in Guangdong are: the pangolin, the monitor lizard, the giant salamander, wild snakes, owls and the yellow-breasted bunting. After preparation, an owl can be worth about 1,800 yuan. Pangolins sell for 500 yuan a jin, monitor lizards for about 100 yuan. More....