A whale shark swam past an oil rig the other day in China, and it caused quite a stir on their social media as oil workers posted images and video of this awesome fish. The following day it was hanging in the Beihai Fish market and sold by a Mr Liao and Mr Huang, who claim the fish was already dead when they found it.

Social media erupted on the story for a second time, this time calling for the arrest of the culprits. In a somewhat surpassing move, Police have have actually arrested and charged the men with trading in an endangered animal.

I say this is surprising, in that every day, tens of thousands of endangered animals are sold all through china. These include tigers, rhino, manta rays, pangolin, sea turtles.. So many species are heading for extinction because of Chinese demand, and you don’t see the people involved in the sales getting arrested at all. Walk into any traditional medicine store and its walls are lined with critically endangered species parts.

I am not sure if the arrests above herald a changing in Chinese attitude towards trading in endangered species. It is noticeable that most of the species they demand in traditional medicines are from overseas. You don’t see them trading panda parts do you. Imagine the uproar if that ever started happening. I think in this case, people cared because it was seen as a local fish. Foreign animals – who cares? Certainly from what I’ve seen the Chinese have little regard for animals. It is great that in this case some locals cared, but I suspect by sunset they’ll be back to consuming rhino horn and pangolin scales, sourced from far-away places of course.