Most scientists believe that the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic is to be found in the bats, which have transmitted the virus to another animal - perhaps the snake or the pangolin - which in turn, contaminated human beings.

In January, China, suspected of the coronavirus coming from meat sold on a market in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, banned the trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice deeply rooted in the country's culture. "We have been eating this food for thousands of years. We should be more careful: cook the food longer and check if it is fresh," said regulars at the Wuhan market. Another customer says that she will continue to buy at the market, even if it is risky, because "everything is more expensive at the supermarket".

>> To read: "Pangolin, bat ... the mystery of the host animal remains"

Peter Li, a specialist in Chinese politics at the University of Houston Downtown in the United States, explains that there are millions of wild animals on Chinese farms: "We raise them to take their fur, use them as part of traditional medicine or in laboratories. "

Global trade

At the end of March, China also gave the green light to the marketing of a drug based on bear bile, in order to treat patients with Covid-19. The remedy includes an injection of bear bile, goat horn powder and plant extracts. About 20,000 bears are said to be locked up in the country in narrow cages, their stomachs connected to a pipe, to extract their bile. Animal defense associations cry out scandal.

But as Richard Thomas, from the NGO Traffic, explains, China is far from being the only country responsible. "The trade in wild species is global. All the countries of the world trade in products derived from wild fauna and flora. France, for example, has a significant trade in giant conch, a gastropod of the Caribbean, and imports millions of reptiles, especially their skins. All animals that are traded are at risk of disease. "

Rightly or wrongly, today the symbol of this animal risk is the bat. In Peru, the small mammal is now the target of attacks. In the north of the country, residents burned bats for fear of the virus.

For Richard Thomas, lessons must be learned from the current health crisis. International coordination on the wildlife trade is imperative because "if things resume exactly as they were before, there will likely be another epidemic".

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