The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 2.4 million people worldwide since the first cases were announced in early December. Medical experts across the globe are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine that can halt COVID-19 in its tracks.
But in China and other southeast Asian countries there have been reports of countless crooks trying to capitalise on the deadly outbreak. Some of whom falsely tout that products made from wild animals, who have been raised in abhorred conditions and brutally slaughtered, can cure coronavirus – all in a dastardly quest for profit.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have revealed numerous advertisements posted over social media making bogus claims of a coronavirus cure.
Southeast Asia’s illegal trade of products made from endangered animals is nothing new but shocking lies that they can be used to treat COVID-19 has been condemned by the organisation.
The animals targeted during their cruel capitalisation of the coronavirus pandemic include tiger, bear, rhino and others.
Footage revealed tigers being kept in underground basements in the region – who are overfed, live in tiny cages and are often pumped up with fluid to make them more appealing to buyers.
As part of this, wealthy individuals pay large sums of money to have products made from tiger bones, which is either boiled down into a glue-like substance or stewed in wine.
Some purchase these items to show-off their affluence and others believe it can increase sexual prowess through “allowing men to become the mighty tiger”.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, a new claim has been made about these “luxury” items – that it can prevent people from catching the virus through keeping them safe and healthy.
Others falsely state that the products can cure COVID-19 and that they are being used as part of a test programme by the government.
One despicable advert from Vietnam, which showed a tiger being butchered, claimed that the ‘glue’ product could maintain health.
It read: “From the haunting pandemic, we recognise the two most important things in life, family and health.
“Invest in health while you can! Money will not buy health, but with money, health will certainly improve.”
Other posts made on WeChat – a WhatsApp equivalent – in China and Laos peddled similar lies about the traditional Chinese medicine product ‘Angong Niuhuang Wan’.
The item is a medicine ball that is made up of minerals, herbal and animal ingredients, which is typically used to reduce a fever.
This specific trader allegedly has a “long history of offering tiger, elephant, helmeted hornbill, rhino and illegal wildlife for sale”.
Among the ingredients list of this criminal trader’s “medicine” was rhinoceros horn, according to the EIA.
The post inaccurately claimed: “Release by authorities: Angong Niuhuang Wan is included in a programme for diagnosis and treatment of the novel coronavirus illness issued by the National Health Commission.”
Others have reportedly offered bear gall bladder, pangolin scales and much more.
These advertisements have been condemned by Debbie Banks, from the EIA.
In the wake of beliefs that coronavirus could have been transmitted from animals, she feels that now more than ever is the time to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade.
Ms Banks wrote: “If ever there was a time to rethink our relationship with nature, it is now, in the midst of the biggest ever wake-up call.
“The coronavirus is symptomatic of our biodiversity and climate crises – a pandemic of our own making.
“Specialists in the spread of zoonotic diseases (those arising from wildlife) that risk turning into pandemics have been raising the alarm for years.”
She added that the “more we destroy nature” and encroach on the habitats of wildlife, the greater the risk of viruses and bacteria “spilling-over” to human populations.
Ms Banks cited: “Historically, SARS, Ebola, MERS, HIV, bovine tuberculosis, rabies and leptospirosis to name just a few.”
In addition to combating the illegal wildlife trade, she believes we need to take a “far more precautionary approach” and alter our industries.
These include restoring natural habitats, creating “alternative livelihoods” to end the trade and “rethink food production”.
She added: “To avoid a future pandemic we need transformative change, restoring the health of the planet and the ecosystems we depend on.
“We need new alliances that cross multiple disciplines – conservation, human health, agroforestry, business – coalescing round a new world vision.”
For more information about the Environmental Investigation Agency’s work visit: www.reports.eia-international.org.
This article was first published by The Express on 20 April 2020.
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