The Chinese food market at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak has been found to have been selling live koalas, snakes, rats and wolf pups to eat before it was shut down.
The Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan is now under scrutiny after Chinese officials said the coronavirus originated for wildlife sold illegally at the food emporium – now labelled as “ground zero”.
Photos taken before its closure in December show a price list of 112 exotic animals – from snakes to civet cats – were available for sale, says the South China Morning Post.
The list included live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats.
“Freshly slaughtered, frozen and delivered to your door,” said the price list for the vendor called Wild Game Animal Husbandry for the Massesm, which also listed a price of 70 RMB (£7.70) for koala meat.
When asked about claims of a food market selling koalas, a Chinese community leader based in the UK told the Daily Mirror: “I doubt that it’s unlikely you would be able to smuggle them into China.”
There were also reports of cages packed with porcupines on sale, alongside endangered pangolins.
Sellers saying trade in wildlife took place up until the market was shut for disinfection after the outbreak began.
It has put the country’s poorly regulated wild animal trade, driven by demand for exotic delicacies and ingredients for traditional medicine, under the spotlight. Conservationists have long denounced the trade in wildlife for its impact on biodiversity and the potential for spreading disease.
Wild, exotic and farmed animals are packed together, described as a breeding ground for disease and an incubator for a multitude of viruses to evolve and make the jump to humans.