Electron microscope image of 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19. NIAID-RML/CC BY 2.0

Electron microscope image of 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19. NIAID-RML/CC BY 2.0


Published 24 February 2020


China announces new measures to regulate wild animal markets

Cambridge, UK, 24th February 2020—authorities in China have announced tough new measures—including an unprecedented ban on the consumption of wild animals as food—aimed at reducing the risks to public health from infectious viruses generated in association with poorly managed trade in wild animal species. 

The new measures come amid growing public concern about the spread and impact of the coronavirus Covid-19 and the consumption of wild animals. A seafood market also illegally selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan is widely considered the epicentre of the current Covid-19 outbreak. 

Authorities in China have undertaken a whole suite of measures aimed at preventing the virus’s spread, including the announcement on 26th January of a temporary ban on all wildlife trade in the country. 

Today’s announcement on the state-run Xinhua news agency takes the measures against wild animal trade further and followed a meeting of the Standing Committee to the 13th National People's Congress. 

Specific measures, which have been introduced with immediate effect, include:
•    A ban on the consumption as food of all terrestrial wild animals from both wild and captive breeding sources. 
•    Stricter enforcement of China’s Wild Animal Protection Law and other relevant legislation prohibiting the hunting, catching, trading, transporting and eating of wild animals. 
•    Defining which animals qualify as being considered as livestock and poultry. 
•    Defining the special circumstances under which wild animals may be used for purposes other than consumption as food, such as for scientific research, medical use, and display. 
•    Awareness campaigns on ecological protection and public health and safety. 
•    Clarification of implementation of relevant legislation. 
•    Commitments to implement the new measures, with appropriate assistance to producers impacted by the new measures. 

TRAFFIC commends China’s firm and targeted measures aimed to reduce disease transmission risks arising from trade in wild animals. We hope that strong enforcement of laws to regulate imports and the marketplace will also help address critical conservation threats to wildlife species suffering illegal and unsustainable trade.

— TRAFFIC’s Executive Director, Steven Broad TRAFFIC believes regulating wildlife markets for disease control is essential and that efforts to curtail illegal and/or unsustainable trade in wildlife products should be a priority for the global community. 

Unsanitary, cramped conditions where animals are kept in close proximity to each other and also to people create the conditions under which viruses can adapt to cross the species barrier into humans with potentially fatal consequences. 

In 2002/2003 an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was linked to a virus in bats which crossed into humans via civets. The precise route by which Covid-19 has been able to infect people is not known with certainty, but the transmission route is likely to involve at least one intermediate host animal species. The South China Agricultural University announced their discovery of a 99% genetic match between Covid-19 and a strain of the virus found in pangolins. A study published in Nature had earlier found the probable origin of the virus in bats. 

In recent days, TRAFFIC has signed alongside other wildlife-focused NGOs open letters calling for the authorities in Viet Nam and Hong Kong SAR respectively to take strict measures against illegal wildlife markets to prevent further spreading of the virus.