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  Stopping wild animal consumption
The latest study linking wild animals such as civet cats to the coronavirus that causes SARS has forced governments to take stricter measures to stop their trade and consumption.

The research, released on Friday and Saturday, has produced wide repercussions throughout the country, especially in South China's Guangdong Province.

Local government and non-governmental groups are now attempting to halt the practice of eating wild animals.

Some experts in Guangdong have urged the government to ban the sales of wildlife and strongly enforce the move.

According to regulations in Guangdong, people who knowingly eat dishes that contain animals on the State protection list will be fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,205) - three times the average monthly salary of locals.

The legislation body in Shenzhen is drafting a regulation to forbid the hunting, processing, purchasing, slaughtering and consumption of wildlife. The first version is expected to come out soon.

In Beijing, wildlife protection departments have launched a thorough inspection into the trade of wild animals in the city, including civet cats.

Experts with the Ministry of Agriculture found that the genetic order of the SARS virus was identical to the genetic order of the coronavirus that can be found in animals like bats, monkeys, civet cats and snakes.

The animal coronavirus investigation team has collected 1,700 animal samples from 59 species, including various kinds of domestic livestock, wildlife, aquatic animals and pets, all of which possibly come into contact with humans.

But how the SARS or SARS-like coronavirus jumped from wildlife to the human race and caused the outbreak of the disease is still being studied.

Researchers in Hong Kong also announced on Friday that they have charted a complete genetic map of the SARS-like coronavirus detected in the Himalayan palm civet, which shares 99.8 per cent of the genetic code of the SARS coronavirus.

The scientific research also ruled out pets and other domestic livestock as the source of the disease as the two have a different coronavirus genome.

Experts have called for dogs, cats and other family pets to be treated humanely as some have been abandoned due to fears they might have been responsible for spreading the flu-like virus.

According to Doctor Tian Kegong from the veterinarian diagnosis centre at the Ministry of Agriculture, no animals in China have died from the disease.

"We are still looking into the issue, but there has been no evidence so far to show any possible SARS transmission through domesticated dogs and cats," he added.

Wang Zhihua, from a Beijing-based animal hospital, said: "Stricter precautionary measures are understandable and necessary, especially during the crucial time of SARS prevention."


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