As the spread of the deadly Coronavirus is currently affecting much of mainland China leaving more than 420 people dead, Chinese authorities recently announced a nationwide ban on the wildlife trade in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms.
The announcement comes amid rising speculation that the deadly coronavirus arose within a market in the City of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. The cramped, highly unsanitary conditions under which wild animals are illegally traded and sold for human consumption in such markets is known to create the ideal conditions for viruses to mutate into particularly virulent forms, with the potential to cross the species barrier to humans, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) say there’s a high likelihood the new coronavirus came from bats. But it might have made the jump to a currently unknown animal group before humans could be infected.
The viruses behind Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are also thought to have originated from the consumption of bats. But they are thought to have circulated in civet cats and camels, before being transmitted to humans.
The World Health Organization has made it clear that there is no evidence that dogs or cats can be infected with the Coronavirus. Due to false rumors, some Chinese residents have begun killing their pets, mistakenly believing that they can contract the virus from them.
In late 2002, an outbreak of SARS was later shown to have been associated with the illegal trade and sale of civet cats in southern China. Suspicions that the civet cat trade was the origin at the time led to a clampdown on all trade in civet cats and sadly the culling of thousands of animals.
“In the wake of SARS, there was widespread recognition that unsanitary illicit markets selling live wild animals pose a significant public health risk.” “Governments worldwide should assess the human health and disease risks posed by poorly regulated and often illegal wildlife markets, and take appropriate action,” said TRAFFIC.
“Alongside market closure, further effort is also needed to curb wild animal trafficking and associated criminal activities, and the dangerous consumption patterns that accompany illegal wildlife trade,” continued TRAFFIC.
Although we applaud the Chinese government for the temporary ban on the wild animal trade, we urge the government to make this a permanent ban. Not only would that save countless of innocent animals, it would help prevent situations like this in the future.