Police in China have reportedly confiscated some 38,000 trafficked wild animals in the space of 20 days after Beijing cracked down on the sale of exotic creatures following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Officers around the country have investigated 209 relevant criminal cases and 473 administrative cases, punished 690 offenders and seized 2,347 kilograms (5,174 pounds) of wildlife products since January 23, state media reported.
Experts believe that the deadly COVID-19 virus, which has killed at least 1,018 and infected more than 43,130 worldwide, has been passed onto humans by wildlife sold as food, especially bats and snakes.
Officers around the country have punished 690 offenders and seized 5,174 pounds of wildlife products since January 23, state media reported. Police of Qingyuan last month clamped down on a farmers' market and impounded 1,286 live and dead wild animals (pictured)
Eleven unlawful vendors who traded illegal animals were punished by Qingyuan police
China ordered a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals on January 26 as the country struggled to contain the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have been spawned in a food market that sold wild animals in the city of Wuhan.
Huang Yanzhong, a public heath expert at China's Council for Foreign Relations, said that the sale of rare 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 luxury.
Since the outbreak in Wuhan, calls have been renewed for police to enforce laws against the trade and consumption of exotic species.
While in the county of Xuwen in Guangdong Province, forestry police raided the home of a suspected wildlife trafficker on January 30. They found carcasses of 56 wild animals
THE KILLER VIRUS MAY HAVE COME FROM BATS, SCIENTISTS SAY
The killer coronavirus sweeping across the world may have come from bats, scientists have said.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People's Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai came to the conclusion.
In a statement, the team said: 'The Wuhan coronavirus' natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.
Tests of the virus, which has yet to be named, have revealed it targets a protein called ACE2 – just like its cousin SARS, the South China Morning Post reported.
Tracing the evolution of the virus, the team of experts found it belonged to betacoronavirus, making it structurally similar to SARS.
Authorities have pointed the blame on food markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that scientists are scrambling to contain.
Rodents and bats among other animals are slaughtered and sold in traditional 'wet markets', which tourists flock to see the 'real' side of the country.
Police across China have launched special campaigns to bust wild animal trafficking rings since last month.
Two sellers in Baiyun District of Guangzhou were arrested on January 31 after being caught selling wild snakes and bamboo rats to an undercover reporter who posed as a customer.
The vendors charged 300 yuan (£33) per kilogram for the snakes and 160 yuan (£18) per kilogram for the rats, hidden camera footage shows.
While in Hubei Province, where the virus originated, one underground store in Xianning was found to be selling live barking deer and Chinese ferret-badgers after some 56 million residents in the province had to be quarantined because of the fast-spreading illness.
The boss of the illegal business was arrested by police on January 28. Officers confiscated one live barking deer, one dead barking deer, nine sheets of deer skin, one live Chinese ferret-badger and one piece of weasel skin, reported Cover News.
While in the county of Xuwen in Guangdong Province, forestry police raided the home of a suspected wildlife trafficker on January 30.
Officers found the carcasses of 56 wild animals, including those of birds, civet specie, in a freezer. The suspect, 57-year-old Lin admitted his guilt and was detained.
The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan (pictured), experts confirmed on Sunday after testing samples collected from the place
A police officer stands guard outside of Huanan Seafood Wholesale market in Wuhan
Elsewhere in Guangdong, officers of Qingyuan last month clamped down on a farmers' market and impounded 1,286 live and dead wild animals being sold there. Eleven unlawful vendors were punished.
The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts confirmed on January 26.
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market.
It is not clear which animal was carrying the pneumonia-like illness but the market was home to stalls trading dozens of different species, including rats and wolf cubs.
The new coronavirus has killed at least 1,018 people and infected more than 43,130 globally
Wuhan has launched a campaign to screen the health of all residents to identify potential coronavirus patients. Pictured, a health worker donning a hazmat suit checks the temperature of a man at a centralised observation and isolation station in Wuhan on February 5
The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed more than 1,018 lives and infected more than 43,130 people in 28 countries and territories around the world - but nearly 99 per cent of infections have been in China.
A total of 103 people died in a single day in China's Hubei province on Monday - the highest toll recorded in any one 24-hour period since the outbreak began in December.
It comes the same day as WHO experts and scientists have finally arrived in China to help officials there contain and study the outbreak which has now struck at least 42,729 people worldwide.