Animals under threat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 January, 2007, 12:00am

The recent dog cull in Beijing sparked heated protests from animal lovers around the world.

In a bid to stem the spread of rabies, the Chinese government bludgeoned tens of thousands of unregistered dogs to death in front of their tearful owners.

The incident has become a potent symbol of animal cruelty, and animal rights activists have called for more protection for vulnerable animals.

Animals are also under threat from indirect sources. With cities and agricultural land pushing further into their habitat, wild animals are left with nowhere left to live.

Added to this is the pollution that goes hand in hand with human development - this threatens what few natural habitats remain.

Our insatiable appetite for energy and resources is driving many species to extinction.

The number of endangered species on the Red List of Threatened Species, released by the World Conservation Union, increases every year.

Animals are classified according to their population today. They are listed as critically endangered, endangered, threatened, vulnerable and so on. Once-common species, such as hippopotamuses and polar bears, made the list last year. Their rapid decline in number is the result of indiscriminate destruction of their habitats.

Global warming is another culprit. Scientists believe the tonnes of heat-trapping gases spewed out from factories and cars contributed to an increase in global temperatures.

With the ice fields at the North Pole melting, Artic animals including polar bears are stranded on chunks of ice where they face starvation.

Poaching is also to blame. The number of hippopotamuses plummeted by 95 per cent last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to unregulated hunting for their meat and ivory teeth.

Many people take comfort in pointing a finger at unscrupulous poachers and power companies for putting wild animals under threat.

But, while we enjoy the many material comforts we have long taken for granted, we are all inadvertently adding to destruction of our planet and its creatures.

Chinese medicine a recipe for disaster for moon bears

After the poaching of wild bears was outlawed in the 1980s, bear bile farms sprang up on the mainland. In these farms, moon bears are cooped up in small cages with tubes inserted into their gall bladders. The metal tubes, which extract bile from the bears, often lead to viral infections. Following an outcry from foreign countries against the inhumane practice, the Chinese government has launched a crackdown on the trade. However, given the high medicinal value Chinese place on bile, some farmers still breed moon bears for profit illegally.

Our obsession with fur drives a booming trade in pelts

While fashion-conscious women flaunt their new furry bags and coats trimmed with soft animal hair, animals are suffering inside cramped cages in fur farms around the world. To maintain the sheen of the pelts, some animals are skinned alive in mainland fur farms, where animal protection laws are looser than in other countries.

In Canada, the slaughter of baby seal cubs for their soft fur raised vehement objections from animal lovers. Pictures of club-wielding poachers and dead seal cubs on bloodied ice triggered some western nations to boycott Canadian exports last year.

Thailand's booming tourist sector adding to the plight of elephants

A once-revered patron saint of the nation, elephants have been relegated to a second-rate tourist attraction in Thailand. Driven from their forest homes into the cities, elephants are ridden by mahouts who roam the city centre in search of tourists' handouts.

Saddened by the sorry state of the animals, tourists often stop and buy bananas from the mahouts to feed them. The noisy and polluted city life spells disaster for the pachyderms, which are often hit by cars. Prolonged walking on concrete roads also hurts their feet.

The darker face of Chinese culture

In Chinese birthday or wedding banquets, shark's fin soup is often served. Serving the exotic and expensive dish brings 'face' to the hosts. A feast without the staple delicacy would set tongues wagging among guests who would accuse the hosts of being miserly. Chinese's penchant for the dish has sent the number of sharks in the world's oceans plummeting. The sharks also die an agonising death. With no room on ships to store the carcasses, the poachers slash the fins off the shark and throw the fish back into the water, leaving them to bleed to death at the bottom of the sea.

Think about

1. What can you do to help animals who suffer from a loss of habitat due to development and poaching?

2. Recently, four men were jailed for a month for eating dog meat, the first time offenders have been sent to jail in Hong Kong for cruel acts against animals. Do you support the judge's sentence?

3. In Hong Kong, animal abusers are subject to a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$200,000. Do you think the punishment is strong enough to have a deterrent effect on would-be offenders?

Word Power

Match the following words with their meanings on the right.








left in difficulties


impossible to satisfy



decreased rapidly


Fill in the blanks with the words you have learned.

1. China's ___________ demand for raw materials and energy has drawn protests from western nations which accuse it of exploiting the world's resources.

2. The _______ little girl told her mother she had lost her doll.

3. In order to ________ the spread of HIV/Aids, countries around the world have pledged to enhance sex education.

4. The outbreak of avian flu resulted in a _____________ of poultry in 1997.

5. The typhoon left thousands of passengers ____________ in the airport.

6. Diamonds are ________ stones which have captivated women for generations.

7. During the Asian financial crisis in 1997, stocks ____________ across the region.

Language Focus

Using 'where' in adjective clauses

'Where' is used in an adjective clause to modify a place.

Below is an example from the passage.

E.g Artic animals, such as polar bears, are stranded on land where they face starvation.

Please combine the following sentences as shown in the example.

E.g Ann lives on a small farm.

All kinds of animals can be found on the farm.

Answer: Ann lives on a small farm where all kinds of animals can be found.

1. Cacti are a unique plant in deserts.

They develop special mechanisms to withstand the dry climate in deserts.


2. Diners can no longer light up in restaurants.

Smoking has been banned in restaurants.


3. Shopping malls on Christmas Eve are a hive of activity.

Shoppers rush to buy presents for their loved ones in shopping malls.



cull - slaughter, stem - stop, tearful - crying, insatiable - impossible to satisfy, precious - valuable, stranded - left in difficulties, plummeted - decreased rapidly; 1. insatiable 2. tearful 3. stem 4. cull 5. stranded 6. precious 7. plummeted