China probes hunting of giant pandas

China is investigating reports that buyers are persuading villagers in the country's southwest to hunt giant pandas and trade their pelts, state media reported.

Citing a report in the Southern Weekend newspaper, Xinhua news agency said mysterious figures were persuading villagers living near the Ya’an reserve in Sichuan province to hunt the endangered species for their fur.

"We have sent a working group to supervise the investigations and we will prosecute anyone involved," Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for China’s State Forestry Administration was quoted as saying.

The pelt of a panda can fetch up to 500,000 yuan (US$68,000), the report added.

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