China has implemented a temporary ban on wildlife markets following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 6,000 people in the country. Some 15 countries have also reported a few cases. But environmentalists are now calling to make the ban permanent.
The first few cases of coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. In no time, the number of cases rapidly increased in the city. Authorities immediately zeroed in on a market that slaughters wildlife for human consumption. The sale and slaughter of wildlife are illegal. So in effect, the market had been operating despite the illegal animal trade and many people were aware of it. It was a public market after all.
The Huanan seafood market, which was ordered closed, was known for selling bamboo rats, civets, crocodiles, pangolins, porcupines, snakes, and wolf pups. They were kept in small cages. During the closure, authorities saw how unsanitary the market was. The cages were not cleaned so that the animals have to sleep in their waste. This is a great way to incubate diseases and spread on to humans.
While the Chinese Government had banned wildlife markets, environmentalists have the notion that it seemed temporary. The ban should be permanent because then the problem will just be repeated. In fact, this is not the first time an outbreak started in China. The SARS coronavirus identified in 2003 was traced to bats sold in China’s wildlife markets.
Why wildlife markets are popular
China is not the only place with wildlife markets. The Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, Thailand is a popular place to buy lizards, primates, and other endangered species. In this case, the wildlife is mostly for pets rather than for human consumption. Bangkok is a known trade link for Madagascar and the United States for the sale and transport of primates, particularly lemurs, and turtles. It also links Cambodia and Japan in the trade of slow lorises as pets.
Some Asian countries also serve turtles, tortoises, pangolins, and monitor lizards in restaurants. Exotic dishes are popular in China and other parts of Asia. In Africa, bushmeat has also become popular because of poverty. Some Africans hunt wildlife for food because it would be easier to acquire rather than buying food. Some South American countries, particularly those covered by the Amazon, also sell rainforest animals for their meat.
Another reason for the popularity of the illegal wildlife trade is the skin of animals like crocodiles and ostriches. Tigers and other animals are also believed to have medicinal properties, which make them a target in the illegal animal trade, which is believed to be a business worth an estimated $15 billion every year.
Credit: WCS Vietnam
The fight against animal trafficking
With the current health crisis focused on the coronavirus, hopefully, more people would join the fight against animal trafficking. This is one of the goals of Blue Manakin, a company that sells T-shirts, hoodies, and accessories in a bid to educate the public about the importance of environmental protection. The company aims to make a difference through its products not only because each one has an important environmental message, but also because 10% of the profit of the business goes to the World Wildlife Fund.
There is environmental apparel for every person at Blue Manakin. There are shirts and hoodies for men, women, and children. The collection of bags from the company is also beautiful. There are two types of tote bags with three different designs. The tote bags are also organic, which is an added point.