Species Affected
History of the Connection

Species found to have SARS-like coronavirus from the Guangdong market, China:

Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata)

Order: Carnivora
Superfamily: Feloidae
Family: Viverridae
Subfamily: Paradoxurinae

They are sometimes (or often) referred to as civet cats. They are however, not true cats. While they share the same superfamily: feloidae, all true cats are found in the family felidae.

The masked palm civet is the most widespread of all civets. Its range includes northern Pakistan and Kashmir to Indochina and the Malay Peninsula, Laos, Sumatra, Borneo, Taiwan, Hainan, much of eastern and southern China, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Humans introduced this civet species to the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku in the early- to mid-1900s.

Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides)

Order: Carnivora
Superfamily: Canoidea
Family: Canidae

They are the one of 14 genera in the family canidae. Although they are called dogs they are not true dogs, but cousins.

The raccoon dog was originally found across eastern Siberia, Manchuria northern China and Japan and was introduced into NW Russia during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. From there the species rapidly spread westwards to Finland.

Chinese Ferret Badger (Melogale moschata)

Order: Carnivora
Superfamily: Canoidea
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Melinae

Chinese ferret badgers are found from Assam to central China and northern Indochina, as well as in Taiwan, and Hainar.

M. moschata is the smallest member of the badger family. These badgers can weigh from 1 to 3 kg and range in length from 30 to 40 cm.

History of the Wildlife Connection

  • SARS began to spread in Guangdong province in the cities of Heyuan, Shenzen, Shunde, Foshan and Zhongshan and while at first only a few people were sick, many of them had a history of contact with wild animals in the market

  • Experts with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture found that the genetic makeup of the SARS virus was identical to that of the coronavirus found in animals like civet cats, bats, monkeys and snakes

  • Researchers with the University of Hong Kong found that a complete genetic map of the SARS-like coronavirus which is found in the Himalayan palm civet shares 99.8% of the genetic code of the SARS coronavirus

  • Their team collected 1,700 animal samples from 59 species consisting of wildlife, pets, domestic livestock and aquatic animals - all of which are often found in close contact with people

  • Scientific research has ruled out pets and domestic livestock as the source of the SARS virus

  • The precise manner in which the SARS or the SARS - like coronavirus jumped from wildlife to people has yet to be determined.

  • The Wild Animal Park in Xiamen, China reports that attendance is down due to public fears about SARS

  • China authorities have reportedly threatened fines of up to 100,000 Yuan (US $1,200) for anyone found selling or consuming wildlife species (the average monthly salary of a worker is only about 3,300 Yuan)

  • China authorities have also reportedly threatened to execute anyone found deliberately spreading SARS, and this includes breaking a quarantine

  • In the past, Chinese authorities have reportedly ordered the roundup and slaughter of pet dogs and cats, arguing that they are a public nuisance and that the keeping of pets reflects capitalist tendencies - a measure which official government sources deny has ever been ordered

  • Notwithstanding these denials, The Humane Society of Canada has offered and continues to offer to assist the Government of China with humane animal control and care programs

  • There are reports that animal lovers in Singapore are trying to rescue and find homes to stray cats that are being rounded up and killed by health officials who are reportedly saying that this is a part of their efforts to control SARS. The Humane Society of Canada has offered to assist that country with developing humane animal care and control programs and asked them to clarify how killing stray cats will prevent SARS

  • In the provincial capital of Guangzhou, government agents raided four wildlife markets, seizing 267 pheasants, 54 pheasants, 55 pounds of snakes and a number of wild birds

  • In Guangdong Province, restaurants that serve wildlife have been inspected along with ports, railway stations, and trucking terminals, the report said

  • In Beijing, the only farm that raises civet cats for sale to restaurants has been shut down

  • Many Chinese people believe that wildlife dishes increase virility and strengthen immunity to disease.

  • Chinese traditional medicine also uses other endangered species such as rhino horn, tiger bone and bear gall

  • Environmentalists in Hong Kong claim that as much as 30% of the population has eaten wildlife

  • Another dish called "dragon and tiger head" is made from snake and house cat

  • Although many wildlife species are listed as endangered, laws are not strongly enforced

  • Civet can cost from 120 - 180 Yuan (US $14 - 22) per kilogram and each civet weighs between 2 to 3.5 kilograms

  • The fur of the civet is sold for about 70 yuan (US $8.50) a pelt

  • There are some 360 civet farms in mainland China

  • Provinces and cities in mainland China have begun to seal off civet farms within their borders

  • The Longping Agricultural High-tech Park in Hunan province says that since wild civet cats are becoming extinct, farming of the civets has a prosperous future saying that an investment of 4,300 Yuan (US$520) for purchasing breeding civets and cages to farm a group of the civets – one male and three females - can bring an annual revenue of about 13,400 Yuan, for a net profit before tax of 11,200 Yuan after deducting the cost of feed and salaries.