Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 11898 (2021 ) Cite this article
Here we document 47,381 individuals from 38 species, including 31 protected species sold between May 2017 and November 2019 in Wuhan’s markets. We note that no pangolins (or bats) were traded, supporting reformed opinion that pangolins were not likely the spillover host at the source of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While we caution against the misattribution of COVID-19’s origins, the wild animals on sale in Wuhan suffered poor welfare and hygiene conditions and we detail a range of other zoonotic infections they can potentially vector. Nevertheless, in a precautionary response to COVID-19, China’s Ministries temporarily banned all wildlife trade on 26th Jan 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic concludes, and permanently banned eating and trading terrestrial wild (non-livestock) animals for food on 24th Feb 2020. These interventions, intended to protect human health, redress previous trading and enforcement inconsistencies, and will have collateral benefits for global biodiversity conservation and animal welfare.
Alongside extensive research into the epidemiology, virology and medical treatment of SARS-CoV-2, known generally as COVID-19, it is also vital to better understand and mitigate any role that may have been played by the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in China, in initiating this pandemic1. COVID-19 was first observed when cases of unexplained pneumonia were noted in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, in late 20192. Like the SARS-CoV epidemic (another coronavirus, for which there is still no cure) that began in Guangdong Province in 20023, this latest coronavirus most closely resembles types found in bats4. Initial media coverage suggesting that COVID-19 may have spilled-over via pangolins has been refuted5, 6; probably pangolins are simply a natural reservoir of SARS-CoV-27,8,9 along with palm civets (Paguma larvata)10.