SINGAPORE - After a marine biologist called out local getai host and Internet star Wang Lei for promoting jewellery products made from the shells of giant clams, an endangered species, Wang has clarified that he did not know the species was under threat.
The 59-year-old star told The Straits Times over the phone that he was engaged to do a live-stream session for the jewellery supplier.
He says in Mandarin: "I was given the products to sell, so I sold them. I didn't know the species was endangered."
In a livestream posted on Facebook last Tuesday that has since been deleted, Wang promoted the sale of pearl accessories alongside a female promoter.
She showed a sign which claimed that pearls made from giant clams can help to resolve misfortunes and keep evil at bay.
In the comments section of the livestream, Singaporean marine biologist Neo Mei Lin told Wang that giant clams are an internationally protected species, under Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Giant clams are protected under Appendix II of Cites - in which export permits are necessary for trade of such specimens.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Ms Neo, a marine biologist working at the Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore, says she was alerted to the livestream by a friend.
The 34-year-old says of such products: "Without any documentation, these products are considered illegally shipped to the country. Therefore, I wanted to raise awareness of the plight of these animals, as well as the legal implications of selling these products without permits."
She adds: "People might not even be aware that the source of their beads and jewellery come from a threatened marine life and their consumerism could drive the species extinction.
"I hope through sharing this, people will be able to appreciate that they can do their part to reduce demand of such products and, in the longer term, prevent the species from being overexploited."
Wang says he will be more careful in the future when taking up offers to promote and sell items.
He adds: "There are so many types of seashells. How do I know which are endangered and which are not? If I did, I would have been a professor instead of an online salesman."