BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) -- To better protect the country's biodiversity, China is pooling efforts to further protect endangered species and crack down on illegal animal trafficking.
"China will intensify and coordinate efforts to strengthen wildlife protection," said Yin Hong, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), at a recent briefing.
China has rich wildlife resources. More than 6,500 vertebrate species, or about 10 percent of the world's total, live in China, according to SFA.
Over 470 land-based vertebrates are native only to China, including the giant panda, golden monkey, South China tiger and Chinese alligator.
China has paid great attention to the protection of endangered species and has achieved significant progress since it joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1981.
Over the past few decades, China has continuously worked on its legal framework to improve wildlife protection.
In 1988, China's Law on the Protection of Wildlife went into effect, laying down basic rules for the conservation of rare and endangered species, as well as the protection, development and rational use of wildlife to safeguard the ecological balance.
The government also put 256 species on a national protection list in 1988, stipulating that it would be illegal to slaughter or sell animals on the list.
Since then, China has built a complete legal framework for protecting wildlife, with a series of laws and regulations at both the central and local levels.
In addition, China has strengthened wildlife habitat patrols and strictly penalized those who hunt, sell, purchase and transport protected animals.
In April 2013, police in Beijing uncovered 14 illegal wildlife trafficking cases during a crackdown, seizing 64 animals and thousands of related products, according to SFA.
Close to 1,000 ivory products worth more than 8 million yuan (1.3 million U.S. dollars) were among the seized goods.
In addition to curbing wildlife trafficking in street markets, the government is also making efforts to address online wildlife trafficking.
In April, police officers shut down 628 websites that were engaged in such trafficking, the SFA said.
"China is stepping up efforts to regulate the management of wildlife trafficking and curb illegal trade, enforcing new laws and regulations, implementing a labeling system for ivory products and setting up a national coordination group," said Dr. Meng Xianlin, executive deputy director of China's Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office.
The government has also joined in international campaigns to combat the illicit trade of animal products, including ivory and rhino horns, SFA said.
In January 2013, China worked with 22 Asian and African countries to crack down on cross-border and intercontinental wildlife smuggling.
Through an operation codenamed "Cobra," massive amounts of animal products were confiscated and more than 100 criminal suspects were arrested.
"The operation showed the country's resolution and capability to boost multilateral cooperation in combating wildlife trafficking," said Yin Hong,deputy director of SFA.
After decades of declines, China's endangered species have reversed their fortunes and steadily increased in number over the last 10 years.
Some extremely endangered species are no longer in danger of extinction, according to SFA.
The number of giant pandas living in the wild dropped from 2,000 in the 1970s to 1,114 in the 1980s. However, a survey conducted from 1999 to 2003 showed that the number had rebounded to 1,596.
The number of rare crested ibises has risen from only seven in 1981 to more than 1,700 now, thanks to protection and artificial breeding efforts.
However, there is still an urgent need to raise public awareness regarding wildlife protection, SFA said.
People in some parts of China maintain the centuries-old tradition of eating exotic wildlife as a delicacy. Some rare species also are used in traditional medicine.
Yin said that SFA will join hands with local authorities,non-government organizations and celebrities to teach the public about the importance of protecting wildlife.
"Public participation is of great importance in protecting wildlife and making the cause sustainable," Yin said.