Animal rights groups have cheered the release of 37 spotted seal pups into the wild in northern China after they were rescued from traffickers.
The Humane Society International said the pups were discovered three months ago by police in a shed on a remote farm in the northern city of Dalian, many of them starving and dying.
Eight suspects were arrested in the operation.
The group said the pups had been taken from the wild by traffickers for the aquarium industry and for display in commercial venues such as shops and restaurants.
Another 29 pups died despite efforts to save them, having only been two weeks old when they were found and not yet weaned from their mothers.
Once hunted for their use in traditional Chinese medicine, spotted seals are now a protected species in China.
Peter Li of Humane Society International said: “We are thrilled that our Chinese partner group, VShine, was able to send animal welfare observers to the release of these seal pups back to the wild.
“Sadly, China’s growing obsession for keeping marine species like seals and turtles in captivity is fueling wildlife crime such as this, which causes immense animal suffering and loss of life.”
- Press Association