Civets banned over Sars back on market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2006, 12:00am

Guangzhou officials raided an underground warehouse yesterday and seized 45 masked palm civets, the animal that carried Sars, and dozens of other wild animals.

'It is probably the biggest case this year,' Guangzhou Forestry Public Security Bureau commissar Chen Xibiao said. He said 98 ferret badgers and 31 other wild animals not allowed for consumption were also found in a shop on Zengcha Road.

In the past 11 months, no more than 100 masked palm civets had been found in Guangzhou markets. But the Health Department said it was not worried about a possible Sars outbreak, even though the civets were re-appearing.

'Few people sell and eat civets and we do not consider it serious,' spokesman Feng Shaomin said. 'Only if more and more people start to eat them will it become dangerous to the public. That is why we strongly advise people not to eat masked palm civets and hope the government enforces the ban strictly.'

Li Renyang, the section head of Guangzhou Wildlife Protection Office, said the warehouse was reported by local residents. 'We will investigate more frequently in autumn and winter because it is the season that Cantonese like to store up goodness by eating wild animals,' he said.

Strong demand and stable supply made it difficult to completely prohibit the sale of wild animals in Guangdong, Mr Chen said.

Cantonese have a tradition of eating wild animals, especially when it turns cold, and there is a steady supply from northern provinces.

After the Sars epidemic in 2003, Guangdong prohibited the farming and selling of masked palm civets, but farmers in other provinces are still doing the business to make money.

'The vendors told us the civets were from the northern part of China,' Mr Chen said. 'There are masked palm civet farms in some provinces like Hubei and Shanxi that have not prohibited the sale of masked palm civets like Guangdong has.'