Authorities in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, have officially banned the eating of all wild animals, it was announced.
A notice on the city’s municipal Government website said the ban will come into immediate effect on Wednesday and will last for five years.
Cases of the new coronavirus were first recorded in the city late last year, and linked to a seafood market that included a live animal section.
Most hunting of wild animals has been banned within the city limits and Wuhan has been decared “a wildlife sanctuary”.
Hunting is banned except for “scientific research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other special circumstances,” the notice says.
“Hunting of wild animals is strictly prohibited,” the statement says. “The administrative area of the whole city is a wildlife sanctuary.”
There will also be strict new controls on the breeding of wild animals, with city officials making it clear that none can be reared as food.
“It is prohibited to artificially breed terrestrial wild animals and rare and endangered aquatic wild animals under national key protection for the purpose of eating,” the notice says.
The notice also says illegal wildlife trading is “comprehensively prohibited” and there will be strengthening of “the supervision and inspection of wild animals”.
Officials will also “actively carry out wildlife protection and public health safety publicity and education, eliminate the abuse of wild animals, promote a civilised and healthy, green and environmentally friendly lifestyle, and create a good atmosphere for people and nature to live in harmony”.
The move comes amid mounting pressure for China to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade blamed by many for the Covid-19 pandemic.
In China alone, the virus has claimed 4,634 lives and infected 82,965 people, officials claim.
Globally, at least 324,000 people have died and nearly five million have contracted the killer infection.
The Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital city, in March passed a law to ban the eating of wild animals completely, including those bred or raised by people.