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Coronavirus: Why a permanent ban on wildlife trade might not work in China


New Delhi, Feb 17: Despite the absence of a final, conclusive scientific proof regarding the source of the novel coronavirus that claimed more than 1,700 lives in China, it is believed to have been first transmitted to humans from bats, snakes, civets and other wildlife, which were identified as a host of the virus.

Coronavirus: Why a permanent ban on wildlife trade might not work in China

The spread of a deadly strain of coronavirus, now a global health emergency, has thrust China's wild animal trade into the spotlight.

Crackdown on wildlife trade

The Chinese Government has put a temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals and over e-commerce as part of an effort to contain the Coronavirus outbreak.

Almost 40,000 animals including squirrels, weasels and boars have been rescued so far and 700 people have been arrested for the illegal wildlife trade.

The wildlife trade is a rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar enterprise that is driving species to extinction and also threatening human health.

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A study by the conservation group WWF showed the illegal wildlife trade is worth around $20bn per year. It is the fourth biggest illegal trade worldwide, after drugs, people smuggling and counterfeiting.

Permanent ban on wildlife trade might not work in China

However, it is suggests that China's love for wildlife and using animal parts for medicinal purposes is unlikely to die down overnight, despite potential links to the new coronavirus.

China's complex culture is at the root of its demand for exotic wildlife such as pangolin scales, tiger bones and rhino horns. It is regarded as healthy as well as an indicator of wealth.

The wildlife products industry is a major part of the Chinese economy, and has been blamed for driving several species to the brink of extinction.

Online debate

Many academics, environmentalists have revived the debate for a permanent ban on trade in wildlife and closure of the markets where wild animals are sold.

It previously came to prominence in 2003 during the spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which scientists believe was passed to humans from bats, via civets.

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Government support

The wildlife trade in China is supported by the government and is a source of profit for many people.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) has strengthened oversight of the wildlife business, licensing the legal farming and sale of 54 wild animals including civets, turtles and crocodiles, and approved breeding of endangered species including bears, tigers and pangolins for environmental or conservation purposes.

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