The first outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, has been linked to a wet market where a wide range of wild animals were on sale.
It isn’t the first time a deadly viral outbreak has been linked to one of China’s wildlife markets. The 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak was believed to originate in a similar location in the southern province of Guangzhou.
In a bid to end the risk of further epidemics, a strict ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals is being rolled out across China by the government.
Even though it is unclear which animal transferred the virus to humans — bat, snake and pangolin have all been suggested — China has acknowledged it needs to bring its lucrative wildlife industry under control if it is to prevent another outbreak.
But ending the trade will be hard. The cultural roots of China’s use of wild animals run deep, not just for food but also for clothing, ornaments and even pets.
And the government is leaving space in its ban for the continued use of wild animals in traditional medicine.
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