Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, ordered a ban on eating of wild animals on Wednesday. The city is also offering cash to breeders in order to get them to quit breeding exotic animals. This move comes amid mounting pressure on China to crack down on illegal trade of wildlife. The pandemic is believed to have passed on from bats to other species to humans.

According to a report in CBS News, local administration in Wuhan also virtually banned hunting of wild animals within its limits. It has also declared Wuhan a “wildlife sanctuary”. However, government sanctioned hunting for research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other circumstances have been allowed.

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City officials also said that the local administration would take part in the national scheme to buy out breeders. In order to curb breeding of exotic animals, Chinese authorities have pledged to buy them out.

Two central provinces in China have already outlined details of the buy out programme to help breeders transition to alternative livelihoods. Hunan province announced a compensation scheme to persuade breeders to rear other livestock or produce tea and herbal medicines, stated CBS. Authorities would evaluate farms and inventories and offer a one-off payment. A kilo of rat snake, king rat snake and cobra would be eligible for a buy out of 120 yuan or Rs 1,276, while a kilo of bamboo rat would fetch 75 yuan or Rs 797. The civet cat, believed to have passed on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to humans around 20 years ago would fetch 600 yuan or Rs 6,380.

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Jiangxi province has also released similar plans. The province has more than 2,300 licenced breeders who mostly rear animals for food. Hunan and Jiangxi are “major wildlife breeding provinces”, said animal rights group Humane Society International (HSI).

This is not the first time such measures have been undertaken. After the SARS outbreak, Beijing implemented measures to ban trade and consumption of wild animals but it could not fully stop the trade.

Wuhan, located in Hubei province, is a city of around 11 million people. Hunan and Jiangxi provinces border Hubei province.

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