A court in Shanghai has sentenced a woman to seven years in prison for smuggling pangolin scales, with a fine of 100,000 yuan (S$20,300).

The Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People's Court heard that the defendant surnamed Li, together with others, flew to Shanghai Pudong International Airport from abroad on Nov 26, 2017 and May 18, 2018 with a large number of suspected pangolin scales in their luggage but without any customs declaration.

The scales seized by police were identified as pangolin scales, with a total weight of 110.45 kg.

After the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, China has stepped up efforts in cracking down on illegal activities related to wildlife. Researchers believe the virus most likely came from wild animals and possibly jumped to humans in a wildlife market in Wuhan.

China's top legislature has adopted a decision banning illegal trading of wildlife and eliminating the consumption of wild animals.

China's top legislature said it will immediately ban the trade and consumption of wild animals, in a fast-track decision it says will allow the country to win the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement, made late on Monday (Feb 24), according to the official Xinhua News Agency, comes after an initial suspension of the trade and consumption of wildlife in January.

Some of the earliest infections were found in people who had exposure to a wildlife market in Hubei's provincial capital Wuhan, where bats, snakes, civets and other animals were sold.

"There has been a growing concern among people over the consumption of wild animals and the hidden dangers it brings to public health security since the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak," said Mr Zhang Tiewei, a spokesman for the top legislature's Legislative Affairs Commission.

He said it was both urgent and necessary for the decision to be made at the "critical moment for the epidemic prevention and control".

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