(TMU) — As China continues to take extraordinary measures to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak, “wet markets”—outdoor food markets selling both live and dead animals—have been labeled “ground zero” by authorities in regard to the viral epidemic.
The market facing the most scrutiny allegedly sells the meat of over 100 animals including exotic snakes, live rats, wolf puppies, live peacocks, porcupines, and even koalas, according to images circulating online.
On Wednesday, state authorities banned the trade of live animals at wet markets. The popular Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan where the virus is believed to have begun was previously closed on January 1.
Dr. Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese agency charged with controlling and preventing diseases, confirmed that the virus—now known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)—likely came from “wild animals at the seafood market” but did not go into specifics. The first to suffer from the virus were reportedly the employees at the Wuhan market.
The vast outdoor marketplace is comprised of rows and rows of narrow lanes cluttered with shopkeepers, butchers, and consumers looking for the freshest cuts of uncooked meat. As Business Insider reports, people and animals—both alive and dead—are in constant contact at the market, making it far easier for the virus to spill over from animal hosts into the human population.
Relatively common animals include pigs, hares, chicken, shrimp, and dogs, but an incredible array of exotic cuts can be found including giant salamanders, crocodile tongue, and civets. Chinese consumption of civet meat was the cause of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003, according to AFP. The SARS virus, which originated with bats, was found across wildlife markets in China.
One menu advertising a Wuhan market vendor boasts:
“Freshly slaughtered, frozen and delivered to your door. Wild Game Animal Husbandry for the Masses.”
While Chinese authorities have outlawed the trafficking of numerous wild species—especially since the outbreak of SARS—conservationists claim that the regulations are too loose in general but especially for species that are farmed for commercial purposes.
Exotic species are famously seen as delicacies across China and other Asian countries largely due to the legendary and often unproven medicinal benefits of eating the wild creatures. The consumption of exotic and even live animals is also seen as a symbol of social status.
However, revelations of the live animal sales have even shocked many locals.
One user of Chinese social network Weibo wrote:
“Just took a closer look at the viral wild animal menu – they even eat koalas.”
While another user responded:
“There’s nothing Chinese people won’t eat.”
In a statement made on Wednesday, Dr. Christian Walzer, executive director of the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society’s Health Program, said:
“Chinese scientists believe the Wuhan Coronavirus originated in wildlife sold illegally in a live animal market. This virus is closely related to SARS and it now appears the spill-over to humans followed a similar transmission path. China closed Wuhan markets where this new virus was tracked back to – but similar markets occur in other cities across China and other Asian countries.
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.
Poorly regulated live animal markets, where wild animals, farmed-wildlife, and domestic animals are transported from across the regions and housed together to sell for human consumption provide ideal conditions for the emergence of new viruses that threaten human health, economic stability, and ecosystem health.”
Beijing is struggling to keep the coronavirus under control, imposing a quarantine on three cities after the virus killed 17 people and infected nearly 640.
Meanwhile, experts have warned it is “quite possible” that the deadly virus will spread to Australia.
“We do have a lot of traffic from China and I think it’s quite possible we will get some cases here but I’m very confident that we’re well prepared to respond if we do,” Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said.
Just moments ago, health authorities in Australia confirmed that a person in Sydney is under quarantine after possibly contracting the deadly coronavirus.
Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Kill 90 Percent of State’s Wolves in “Brutal War”
Idaho’s legislature is swiftly moving forward with a bill that critics say would sanction a “brutal war” on wolves whereby up to 90 percent of the current wolf population would be killed in a bid to protect the interests of the state’s ranchers.
On Wednesday, the Idaho senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. The bill will now move forward to the House chamber, reports Associated Press.
Since teetering at the brink of endangerment years ago, wolf populations were removed from the state endangered species list in 2011. Since then, they have thrived despite Idaho allowing hundreds to be killed by hunters, trappers and state measures to control their numbers. Over the past two years, the wolf population has held steady at about 1,500.
According to federal guidelines, wolf recovery numbers require about 150 wolves in the state.
Republican supporters of the bill said during senate debates that the wolf population has grown entirely out of control, endangering the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters and harming the state economy.
“We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Harris.
However, critics have blasted the move as rash and potentially damaging to the state’s wildlife.
“The Idaho Senate’s sudden move to pass this bill in the eleventh hour incentivizes the cruel deaths of more than 1,000 wolves across the state,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This brutal war on wolves must be stopped, and we urge the House to deny this bill,” Zaccardi added.
Maggie Howell, the head of the Wolf Conservation Center, also described the move as the latest in a hostile and extreme campaign against wolves that fails to take into account the creatures’ value to the local ecology.
“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she told the New York Times. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”
As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists
The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.
However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.
While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.
The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.
The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes – but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.
“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.
To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.
However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.
These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.
The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.
Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever
Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.
Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.
In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.
At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.
“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.
Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.
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