Beavers kept in cages as vendors peel skins of hundreds of birds


Pictures of exotic animals stuffed in tiny cages and piles of peeled birds have emerged from a food market thought to be the origin point of China's coronavirus outbreak.

Dishes like beaver and racoon are all sold openly at the Huanan Seafood market in the city of Wuhan in Chinas Hubei province, which is currently under quarantine.

Some people in China believe that eating the unusual creatures can cure ailments like male impotence and even cancer.

An expat who spoke to Time magazine said the market was 'well-known' for selling the strange creatures while they were still breathing. 

Yanzhong Huang, a public heath expert at the Council for Foreign Relations, added that the sale of live animals is deeply-rooted in Chinese culture, despite its illegality.

The freshness of one's dinner is also prized, leading vendors to flog live animals, which are seen as a sign of Western luxury.  

Since the outbreak in Wuhan, calls have been renewed for police to enforce laws against the trade in and consumption of exotic species.

It's also raising questions about how it could happen again after the lessons learned from the 2002 outbreak of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which was traced to consumption of wild animals in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Demand for wild animals in Asia, especially China, is hastening the extinction of many species, on top of posing a perennial health threat that authorities have failed to fully address despite growing risks of a global pandemic.

In response to the crisis that has been centered in the big industrial city of Wuhan, China's Agriculture Ministry issued an order earlier this week ordering tightened controls on trade in wildlife.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, meanwhile, appealed for an end to wildlife markets everywhere, not just in China.

Snakes are pictured in cages at a market in Wuhan, the epicicentre of the coronavirus outbreak

Chinese vendors kill porcupines (pictured at the Wuhan market) to extract an undigested material from their gut, which is believed to cure diabetes, dengue fever, and cancer

Deers and raccoons are seen at the Wuhan food market feared 'ground-zero' of the coronavirus outbreak 

Zoonotic diseases, or those contracted by humans that originated in other species, account for a large share of human infectious illnesses. Not all of them come from the wildlife trade: rabies is endemic across many species and one of the biggest causes of death in the developing world. But mixing species of wild animals increases the risk of diseases mutating and growing more virulent as they spread in unregulated markets, experts say.

The emergence of such diseases is a 'numbers game,' said Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's health program.

'If these markets persist, and human consumption of illegal and unregulated wildlife persists, then the public will continue to face heightened risks from emerging new viruses, potentially more lethal and the source of future pandemic spread,' he said. 'These are perfect laboratories for creating opportunities for these viruses to emerge.'

The order issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, dated Jan. 21, banned all shipments of wild animals out of Wuhan. It also called for stepped up inspections and for raising public awareness about the risks of eating them.

Researchers have not yet announced a definitive source for this latest outbreak, which like many other viruses can infect multiple species.

One of the first measures taken by Wuhan authorities was to close down the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where 41 of the first cases originated.

'That's the big black box right now,' said Jon Epstein, an epidemiologist with the Ecohealth Alliance.

Police look at items seized from store suspected of trafficking wildlife in Guangde city in central China's Anhui Province (pictured on January 9)

Scientists fear the virus may have recently spread to humans from snakes or bats 

The outbreak of a new virus linked to a wildlife market in central China is prompting renewed calls for enforcement of laws against the trade in and consumption of exotic species

Researchers have not yet announced a definitive source for this latest outbreak, which like many other viruses can infect multiple species (pictured, items seized from a store suspected of selling trafficked wildlife in China earlier this month)

The exterior of a store suspected of selling trafficked wildlife is seen in Guangde city in central China's Anhui Province

The outbreak of a new virus linked to a wildlife market in central China is prompting renewed calls for enforcement of laws against the trade in and consumption of exotic species (pictured, meat from trafficked wildlife)

He was in China following the SARS outbreak and helped the ongoing global effort over nearly two decades to find the wild source of that virus, which sickened more than 8,000 and killed less than 800. SARS has been linked to various animals, including bats and the cat-like masked palm civet.

Bats are known to harbor coronaviruses, but scientists have yet to fully understand the new virus and how it leapt from animals to people.

Epstein said researchers suspect but haven't proven that the Wuhan virus came from bats. Before it infected humans, it likely first jumped to an as yet unidentified mammal.

'There's no plausible evidence to support snakes being involved with this virus,' Epstein said, referring to recent media speculation criticized by a recent article in Nature. Researchers don't know which species exactly were sold in the Wuhan market, but Epstein said mammals commonly found in such markets-such as ferret badgers, raccoon dogs or civets-might be involved in the transmission of the new virus to people.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk

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