by NBC News | July 6, 2020
▲ Chow Ka-ling, owner of Shia Wong Hip, a restaurant in the Sham Shui Po district of Hong Kong, handles snake meat in the restaurant's kitchen.
Ou Yang is having a hard time finding snake to eat.
“A very famous restaurant specialized in cooking snakes in my city already stopped providing such dishes,” Ou told NBC News from Foshan, in southern China, where snake has long been regarded as a delicacy. “They are all banned now.”
As the world struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, China is clamping down on the sale of wildlife for human consumption amid concerns about another outbreak of a zoonotic disease. What began as a temporary ban to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is making legislative leaps to a broader ban on the practice — a move international public health and wildlife experts have been urging for years.
While it means Ou will have to forgo his dinners of snakes, crocodiles, boars and bamboo rats, he understands the reasoning.
“I think the ban is helpful to maintain public health safety,” he said.
But experts warn it’s just the first step in preventing another pandemic.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was first detected in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in the province of Hubei in central China, with the initial cases said to be linked to a wildlife market. Researchers later linked this strain of the coronavirus to pangolins, a type of anteater found in Asia and Africa that is poached and sold for consumption as food or as traditional Chinese medicine.
Since then, another outbreak of the virus occurred in Beijing last month — also linked to a wholesale food market.
The problem isn’t unique to Asia. Domesticated animals around the world can also be sources of diseases such as swine and avian flus, experts warn.