BEIJING • Six people in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have been charged over the killing and sale of a giant leatherback sea turtle, reported Chinese media.
A video showing a group of people dismembering the sea turtle went viral last week, triggering an uproar among Chinese netizens.
The turtle, weighing around 200kg, was butchered and its meat was sold for 70 yuan (S$14.50) per kg to villagers in Xuwen county, according to a report by the Global Times.
Pictures shared widely on microblog Weibo showed bloody scenes of the slaughter, with the turtle tied to a two-wheeled cart.
Initial investigations showed that the reptile was already dead when it was caught by fishermen, according to a statement by the county government.
According to the statement, three fishermen caught the turtle when they were fishing in waters off Luodousha Island in Xuwen.
They then sold the turtle to three local villagers for 4,000 yuan. The villagers dismembered the turtle and sold the meat to other villagers.
The fishermen claimed that the turtle was already dead when it was caught, according to Xinhua news agency.
The leatherback sea turtle is a protected species in China.
The country's Criminal Law stipulates that people who hunt and kill rare and endangered wild animals could face punishment of at least 10 years in jail and fines.
The population of leatherback turtles has been dwindling precipitously in the Pacific over the last 20 years, and as few as 2,300 adult females were left, the World Wildlife Fund said in 2013.