A Chinese food blogger that filmed herself chopping up a great white shark, covering it in seasoning and eating it has been fined nearly $20,000.
The content creator, known online as Tizi, posted the video to Chinese streaming channel Douyin on July 14 last year, where it went viral almost immediately.
Police have since revealed that Tizi, whose real name is Jin, purchased the two-metre endangered great white on an online shopping site called Taobao, which is owned by Alibaba.
According to a police statement, she paid 7,700 yuan for the animal, equal to about $1,141, in April before posting videos to social media sites Douyin and Kuaishou.
Subsequent testing of leftover DNA by investigators revealed the shark was a great white worth about 25,000 yuan ($3,704) and not a hooktooth shark as Jin had earlier claimed.
Great white sharks in China are a protected species under the Wild Animal Protection Law.
The law prohibits the transport, purchase and sale of great whites, with anyone found guilty of flouting the law eligible for heavy fines and up to a decade behind bars.
Jin had also claimed the shark was bred in captivity, which was largely speculated to be untrue given great whites only mated in the wild and took decades to reach sexual maturity.
Jin has now been charged $18,500, avoiding the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, Gizmodo reported.
The World Wildlife Foundation considers great white sharks to be at high risk of extinction due to them being hunted for their fins and teeth for many years.
When authorities first began investigating Jin’s matter in August last year, Jin told the South China Morning Post: “These people are talking nonsense”.
In the video of her eating the shark, she told viewers: “It may look vicious, but its meat is truly very tender”.
She was shown chowing down on the animal herself while holding it’s tail end between two hands, while the other end was cooked in a broth and given to locals to try.
She has an enormous online audience, having amassed close to eight million followers on Douyin by sharing regular videos of herself taking part in bizarre eating challenges.
In previous videos, she showed herself eating exotic animals including crocodiles and ostriches cooked in spices.
According to the South China Morning Post, her “sweet look” and “bold food choices” were to blame for her steep rise to popularity.
Police last year arrested the people behind the alleged capture of the shark, who according to The Cover were not affiliated with the shop that featured as a backdrop in Jin’s video.
Jin’s videos were removed from both social media sites following uproar.
China is increasingly looking to crack down on the unlawful trade of animals for food and medicine in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
An editorial on state-run news site The Paper reported on how difficult the logistics would have been to transport a two-metre shark from the coast to Nanchong, some 1770 km away.
“We must harshly crack down on the illegal hunting and trade of endangered wildlife and eliminate the criminal chain,” it said.
A number of food bloggers in the country however have turned to more and more extreme stunts to attract viewers.
Last year, a man from Hainan province was arrested after filming himself eating a giant triton, a protected sea snail.
In 2019, Chinese vlogger Sun died after eating live poisonous centipedes and lizards during his stream for a sick challenge.
Meanwhile, in 2017, a viral video star accidentally poisoned herself live on camera while “taste-testing” a toxic plant she had mistaken for aloe vera.
And also in 2019, another Chinese vlogger learnt the hard way after trying to eat a live octopus when it sucked onto her face during a stream.
Meanwhile, a Chinese influencer achieved worldwide notoriety when she filmed herself eating “bat soup” after the mammal was linked to the Covid outbreak in Wuhan.
A video of Wang Menyun munching on a fruit bat with chopsticks went viral after the beginning of the outbreak in 2020.