Why are birds not seen in China?

Can the coronavirus put an end to China's wildlife markets?

Seventy percent of all zoonoses come from wildlife, says Erin Sorrell, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Such diseases can develop their devastating potential worldwide: HIV, Ebola and SARS are probably among the best-known cases with global effects.

In the animal markets in China and other Southeast Asian countries, up to 40 different species - birds, mammals and reptiles - are "stacked on top of each other," says Walzer. Mixing the air and excretions allows viruses to exchange and potentially new strains to develop. Walzer describes the whole thing as a "cauldron of infection".

So far, the findings suggest that the Wuhan coronavirus originated in bats. It is not yet known what way the virus was then transmitted to humans. When examining the market, however, the virus could be detected in the market area with live wild animals.

The struggle for bans

Many conservationists believe that China's temporary ban on wildlife trafficking - which affects markets, supermarkets and online trading, and includes quarantining the farms - will be largely successful. The government has set up a hotline for reporting violations. “This is an emergency,” says Peter Li. “Everyone is careful. Any retailer who violates the ban will be reported. ”In addition, the fear of the coronavirus is likely to lower demand. Even if dealers illegally offer wild animals for sale, many people will currently prefer not to risk buying them.

China has already issued bans in the past. At the height of the SARS epidemic in 2003, the government issued a temporary ban on the wildlife trade. Six months later it was lifted again and the breeding facilities were able to resume operations. According to Li, it's hard to tell whether trade in live wildlife has increased overall over the past two decades. However, he believes that a larger proportion of the transactions are now taking place in secret in order to circumvent legal controls.