Ten people accused of poaching a wild panda have been arrested in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, state-run media said Wednesday.
Authorities from Yunnan’s forestry police confiscated one panda skin, more than 20 pounds of panda meat, two leg bones and two skull fragments from an adult female during their investigation of the case, which began in early December, state-run media outlets reported. A hunting rifle was also recovered.
State-run China Central Television said two brothers, surnamed Wang, set out into the forest with a gun after one of their sheep was killed in the city of Zhaotong, in Yanjin county near the border with Sichuan province.
They tracked a suspicious animal into a tree. One of the men fired a shot, and the panda fell from the tree, but then climbed back up. A second shot was fired, killing the panda, CCTV said.
Afterward, the panda was apparently butchered.
The Wangs were arrested, as was a man named Wu who allegedly bought the panda meat, CCTV said. It was unclear how the seven other suspects were involved in the case.
Pandas are a national symbol of China and are protected by Chinese law. Killing a panda can bring a prison term of over 10 years.
Wild pandas are known to live in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, but this is the first time a wild panda has been discovered in Yunnan province, according to Yunnan TV news.
It was unclear whether the slain panda was responsible for killing the sheep. Although pandas' diet consists almost entirely of vegetation such as bamboo, they are known to occasionally eat meat such as small rodents.
In 1998, a farmer in southwest China was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing giant pandas, selling their pelts and injuring a policeman while resisting arrest.
According to the conservation group World Wildlife Fund, the last panda census in China, in 2014, found 1,864 of the creatures alive in the wild. That’s up from around 1,000 in the late 1970s. In the past decade, WWF said, giant panda numbers have risen by 17%.
Tommy Yang in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.
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