NANFA-- OT: Chinese Restaurateurs Serve and Endangered Salamanders

Hoover, Jan J ERDC-EL-MS (
Wed, 7 May 2003 15:01:57 -0500

Subject: Chinese Restaurateurs Serve Endangered Salamanders to fight
SARS effect on profits

Chinese Restaurateurs Serve Endangered Salamanders to fight SARS
effect on profits

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Copyright 2003 South China Morning Post Ltd. (Hong
May 7, 2003 - Times are bad for restaurateurs in Guangzhou. So bad
that one restaurant in Baiyun district is trying to lure back customers amid
the Sars outbreak by serving up endangered salamanders - raw. Managers of
the Longxi Restaurant, owned by a village co-operative, advertised its new
dish last Tuesday, hoping to capitalise on the Labour Day holidays and
reverse the 40 to 50 per cent drop in business.

One manager said: 'We have just received our licence to serve
salamanders, so we thought an exotic dish would bring back diners. But no
one has shown any interest.' No one has tasted the new delicacy, but chefs
at the 1,000-seat restaurant think of it as a fish and are going to serve it
raw, steeped in a rice wine, or steamed. 'It is especially good for women
because it will give you a clear complexion,' one waitress told two female

Managers later admitted the claim about its nutritional value was just
promotional spiel, but according to the Chinese traditional medicine bible
Compendium of Materia Medica, eating salamanders keeps hair jet black, and
boosts longevity and immunity. The meat, which is also said to have cancer
-fighting properties, is allegedly so tender and fragrant that it has been
likened to aquatic ginseng. The creatures are so valuable that in the 1970s,
China earned rare foreign currency from salamander exports.

It is not known what type of salamander the restaurant plans to serve,
since none of the creatures was at hand. Judging from the description of its
size, it is likely to be a Chinese giant salamander, which can grow to a
metre in length. It is called a wawa fish in Putonghua because of the sound
it makes and it looks like a fat slug with vestigial legs. Diners must order
salamander in advance. Each weighs more than 1kg and costs 600 yuan (HK$
570) per 500 grams. Restaurant managers said they were sourcing only
'maimed, second -generation salamanders' which had been born on farms. They
said the price for illegal wild salamander was 1,000 yuan per 500 grams. A
Guangzhou fisheries official said wildlife protection laws allowed trading
in certain endangered species which have been bred in captivity, but only
second-generation offspring. As salamander numbers are still quite low,
trading is not encouraged and only disabled salamanders are going to make it
to Longxi's tables legally.

An official at the provincial fisheries law enforcement bureau
confirmed that the restaurant had been issued a permit to serve salamanders,
crocodile meat, two rare kinds of lobster and a rare species of perch.

A sign in the restaurant boasts that it serves all the wild animals
from China's five best-known mountains, but managers denied they were
currently serving anything more exotic than crocodile meat and snakes. Near
the Donghu park, another desperate restaurant has recently put up posters
advertising crocodile dishes.

Salamanders, despite being endangered, did not figure in a recent
nationwide crackdown on the trade in and consumption of wild animals. The
crackdown was launched after the discovery of the coronavirus in Sars
patients suggested animals were linked to the disease's spread. Yesterday
the Information Times reported that consumption of exotic food was as
popular as ever despite the crackdown. Its reporter visited several
wholesale wild animal markets in Guangzhou's Zengcha Road and found trading
was brisk in the many birds, boars and other animals which traders claimed
were captive-bred.

Allen Salzberg
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