Will Covid-19 tame China's wildlife trade?

The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its "wet markets". A boy enjoys a s
People who had visited or live near Beijing’s Xinfadi wholesale market – where the origins of a Covid-19 cluster were traced to – waiting for a swab test at the Chinese capital’s Guang’an Sport Centre in June. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its "wet markets". A boy enjoys a s
A boy enjoys a slice of watermelon as his mother skins a snake at a market in Guangzhou in this 2004 file photo. The snake trade was just one of the many wildlife industries that boomed as China’s population became wealthier. PHOTO: REUTERS
The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its "wet markets". A boy enjoys a s
Civet cats being slaughtered in a facility in Guangzhou in this 2004 file photo. Non-profit group EcoHealth Alliance believes there could be as many as 800,000 unknown pathogens in animal species which can infect humans. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its "wet markets". A boy enjoys a s
A staff member of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation checking a pangolin before it is released into the wild. Protecting the species has been a priority for the foundation. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its "wet markets". A boy enjoys a s
The closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province. The original discovery of the coronavirus in the Wuhan market sparked calls in the United States and Europe for China to close its “wet markets”. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Standing in the way of strict ban are farmers' livelihoods and businesses that thrive in trade

On the outskirts of Bolao town, five minutes down an overgrown dirt track into the jungle of southern China's Guangxi region, Mr Hua Chaojiang breeds cobras by the hundred.

An acrid smell and a chorus of angry hisses meet us when we step into the darkness of the three-storey red-brick building. Mr Hua, who has been raising snakes for 20 years, is unfazed. He reaches into one of the pens, grabs a tail and casually lifts up a complaining - and venomous - elapid snake. The four-year-old cobra is about as thick as Mr Hua's muscled arm and nearly twice as long. He laughs when asked whether the poisonous snakes have ever bitten him. "Of course," he replies, using a metal pole with a hook to keep its fangs away from his body.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'Will Covid-19 tame China's wildlife trade?'. Print Edition | Subscribe