China butterfly smugglers jailed and fined by Jinan court

9th Nov, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

CHINA:Three people have been jailed in China after they were caught smuggling thousands of dead butterflies into the country, state media report.

Authorities discovered a haul of colourful butterflies in early 2016 when they opened packages that were supposed to contain clothing.

They were bought online and posted to China to be framed and sold.

The group were given five, seven and 10-year sentences, the official Xinhua news agency reports.

They were also fined by the court in Jinan, eastern Shandong province. Many of the butterflies were rare or protected species.

It is believed to be the largest butterfly smuggling case uncovered by Chinese authorities.

The trio bought 2,800 specimens from Malaysia and the Philippines. One of the most prized species on the private market is the Papilio Chikae, or Luzon peacock swallowtail.

Chinese private collectors are prepared to pay more than 10,000 yuan (£1,150; $1,500) for just one specimen.

Almost half of the butterflies found are protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), Xinhua says.

China has given tough sentences in the past to people convicted of illegal wildlife trading.

In 2015, a university student was given 10 years for selling rare falcons he found near his home to friends.

At the time, many Chinese social media users expressed shock that he was given a longer sentence than others convicted of crimes like rape or drunk-driving.

In this case, several users of microblogging platform Weibo said the sentences given were too long.

One said that because the butterflies were dead "there was no trading and no harm".

But others backed the sentence, which they believed was appropriate.