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This Exotic Meat Market in Indonesia Could Be a Breeding Ground for the Coronavirus

Bats, thought to be the source of the novel coronavirus, are one of the market’s hottest commodities.
translated by Jade Poa
exotic meat market indonesia bats coronavirus
The exotic meat market in Tomohon. Photo via RIZKY RAHADIANTO/VICE. 

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

With new research linking bats to the novel coronavirus (nCOv), many are now worried that the notorious Beriman exotic meat market in Tomohon, South Sulawesi, Indonesia could be a breeding ground for the virus. The City of Tomohon has now banned merchants from selling bats, a staple commodity in the market.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan has been identified as a likely starting point of the recent nCov outbreak, which has left 31,453 infected and killed 638 at the time of writing.


Dogs, snakes, rats, and monkeys are also widely consumed in Tomohon, as the consumption of exotic meats has been embedded in the region’s tradition for centuries. The Beriman market also made headlines in the past for the animal cruelty that takes place there; videos have shown workers beating live animals and blowtorching them alive.

Isye Liuw, head of the Tomohon Health Department, said the sale of bats is no longer allowed.

“We met with the sellers to inform them about the dangers of the virus and ordered them to stop the sale of bats and snakes,” Liuw told local media.

As an extra layer of protection, the Tomohon local government began inspecting trucks entering the market, in case sellers planned to violate the ban. Tomohon Deputy Mayor Syerly Sompotan visited the meat market on January 30 to call for its temporary shutdown, but the market continues to operate.

Customers at the meat market told ABC that they were unconcerned about the possibility of contracting the coronavirus by consuming bats.

“I’m not worried because the bats I eat are not from Wuhan. I know what I’m consuming,” said Syane, a regular at the meat market who goes by one name.

“We boil the bat two to three times before seasoning it,” meat seller Palit Yani said.

Cahyo Rahmani, head of zoology at the Indonesian Institute of Science, stressed that wild animals can be carriers of bacteria and viruses that can evolve and transfer to humans.

“Interaction between humans and wild animals, whether they are eaten or kept as pets, must be monitored to avoid the spread of viruses,” Rahmadi said, adding that the city of Tomohon should be taking precautionary measures against the coronavirus.

There are currently no recorded nCov cases in Indonesia, but some reports have attributed this to the government’s lack of capacity to detect the virus.