China is Banning Wildlife Trade But These Markets Still Exist Across Southeast Asia

Science says that eating wild animals is seriously dangerous and should be banned, but a glimpse into an actual wildlife market in Indonesia shows us that the solution isn’t so straightforward.
09 April 2020, 8:22am
Wildlife markets in Southeast Asia, coronavirus, wildlife trade
A police officer stands guard outside of Huanan Seafood Wholesale market in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was detected. Hector RETAMAL / AFP

In February, amid the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government announced that it was banning the trade and consumption of wild animals. Scientists believe that the coronavirus was first transmitted from wildlife to humans. Some of the earliest coronavirus cases were traced back to visitors of Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a wildlife market in Wuhan.

Since the coronavirus outbreak transformed into a pandemic, there are growing concerns about the public health risks posed by global wildlife trade. On Monday, April 6, the World Wildlife Fund published the results of a public opinion poll which involved 5,000 respondents across Asia. According to the report, 93% of the respondents “support efforts by governments and health ministries to close all illegal and unregulated markets selling animals from the wild.”

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has called for the closure of wildlife markets around the world. “It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done,” she told the Guardian.

However, Mrema also noted that the issue is more complex than a blanket ban on all wildlife trade. She pointed out that some communities, especially those in low-income rural areas, are “dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people.”

Besides China, bushmeat is also part of culinary traditions in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

About three months before the coronavirus outbreak started, VICE visited a wildlife market in Indonesia. We got to experience wildlife hunting and learnt about the cultural significance behind bushmeat consumption. Watch the video here:

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