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Chinese Market at Center of Coronavirus Outbreak Sold Live Koalas, Snakes, Rats and Wolf Puppies

The market facing the most scrutiny allegedly sells the meat of over 100 animals.



Coronavirus Outbreak
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(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.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons |

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Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida



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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son



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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years



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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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