Smuggler is caught with more than a dozen protected wild muntjacs in his van as experts warn coronavirus came from exotic animal meat
- Officers seized 14 exotic creatures after catching the suspect in China
- The haul included 11 dead Indian muntjacs, a deer species native to Asia
- Also found were three dead civets, known to carry the SARS coronavirus
- The man claimed he was sending ‘wild vegetables’ before being detained
Chinese police have detained a suspected smuggler after catching him transporting more than a dozen wild animal corpses in a nature reserve during the coronavirus outbreak.
Officers discovered 14 dead animals, including 11 muntjacs and three cat-like mammals known to carry the SARS coronavirus, which killed hundreds of people in 2003.
Experts believe that the new coronavirus has been passed onto humans by wildlife sold as food, especially bats and snakes.
The driver points at the hunted wild animals he was trying to transport out of a nature reserve in Pu’er, a city in southern China’s Yunnan Province. The motorist has been detained
Police officers at the Caiyanghe Nature Reserve in Pu’er were alerted of the suspicious motorist by the locals, who claimed to see someone illegally transporting wildlife
The suspect claimed that the exotic creatures, believed to have been hunted for their meat, were ‘wild vegetables’ when he tried to explain his cargo to the police.
Police officers at the Caiyanghe Nature Reserve in the southern city of Pu’er were alerted of the suspicious motorist by the locals, who claimed to have seen someone illegally transporting wildlife.
The Simao District Forest Police Station immediately dispatched officers to the scene and they caught the driver on the spot, said the local legal authority through its social media account.
Officers seized 11 dead Indian muntjacs, a deer species native to South and Southeast Asia, as well as three dead masked palm civets, reported state broadcast CCTV.
The masked palm civets are known to carry the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS CoV, which killed 775 people and infected more than 8,000 globally during an epidemic in 2003.
Both species are protected in the country. Their bodies were hidden in fabric bags.
Officers seized 11 dead Indian muntjacs (left), a deer species native to South and Southeast Asia, as well as three dead masked palm civets (right). The latter is known to carry the SARS coronavirus, which killed 775 people and infected more than 8,000 globally in 2003
The Simao District Forest Police Station caught the unnamed driver (pictured) on the spot
The central government ordered a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals on January 26.
Those who are found guilty of hunting, killing, transporting, trafficking or selling wild animals can face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, according to Chinese law.
Chinese police reportedly confiscated some 38,000 trafficked wild animals between January 23 and February 11.
In the space of 20 days, officers around the country investigated 209 relevant criminal cases and 473 administrative cases, punished 690 offenders and seized 2,347 kilograms (5,174 pounds) of wildlife products, state media reported.
The masked palm civet has been linked to the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, which killed 775 people after first emerging in Guangdong, China. The picture above shows the cat-like mammals seized by officials at Xinyuan wildlife market in Guangzhou on January 5, 2004
The masked palm civet was found to carry the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS CoV
The coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, according to Chinese experts.
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market.
It is not clear which animal was carrying the pneumonia-like illness but the market was home to stalls trading dozens of different species, including rats and wolf cubs.
Conspiracy theorists, however, have claimed that the virus came from Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is situated around 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) from the seafood market.
The virus lab has repeatedly denied the accusations and called for an official investigation to prove its innocence.
The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan (pictured), experts confirmed last month after testing samples collected from there
Scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the market where customers chose from live animals that were slaughtered in front of them (picture purportedly shows skinned chicks at the market)
Experts have suggest that the disease may have originated in snakes, which are known carriers of coronaviruses (multiple reptiles at the market)
Image shows what appears to be a beaver and a small deer caged at Huanan
A list of prices for one of the businesses operating at the market showed ‘live tree bears’ which is the Chinese for ‘koala’ (circled above)
Originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the new virus – known as COVID-19 – has infected more than 75,400 people inside China and 76,700 globally.
The Chinese government has locked down tens of millions of people in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, to prevent the spread of the disease.
Hubei accounts for more than 80 per cent of the confirmed cases and 95 per cent of the deaths worldwide.
Meanwhile, Iran has confirmed 13 new cases of the killer virus as well as two new deaths, bringing its total fatalities to four, the highest outside of mainland China.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2,249 people and infected more than 76,700 globally
More than 76,700 patients have been infected, including more than 1,000 outside of China
Over 2,200 people have now died from the killer coronavirus rapidly sweeping the world
Italy also announced three new cases of SARS-CoV-2, after a 38-year-old man caught it from a friend who had recently returned from China and infected his wife and a close friend.
The man is said to be in ‘very serious condition’ and struggling to breathe in an intensive care unit.
And cases in South Korea have soared, with investigators focusing on a church and hospital in the southern city of Daegu as clusters of infection.
Overnight, health officials from Hubei reported 631 new cases out of a nationwide total of 889 and 115 of the 118 new deaths across China.
Globally, the coronavirus epidemic has killed at least 2,249 people, infected more than 76,700 and spread to at least two dozen countries.
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