Shocking footage seen by MailOnline reveals the appalling state of Nigerian wet markets which have the potential to cause future disease outbreaks in humans.
Myriad animals including pangolins, primates and sea turtles are held — both dead and alive — in confined spaces while workers fail to sanitise surfaces or tools and do not wear appropriate PPE, including gloves.
Video also shows many of the animals being abused before they are slaughtered; photographic evidence reveals vendors boiling animals including pangolins, dogs and manatees while they are still alive.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan is believed to be the site of the first outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is an example of zoonotic transmission where viruses jump from animals to people and experts warn bringing a wide range of animals into a small space alongside humans in unclean conditions is a perfect recipe for disease.
Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Zoonotic and Emerging Disease at the University of Nottingham, told MailOnline: ‘If you were to want to maximise the risk of zoonotic transmission you would mix human contact with a wide range of animals — domestic and wild — and bring them together both alive and dead in the same area.’
Zoonotic diseases are not uncommon, with Covid-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, the bubonic plague, rabies, West Nile virus and Lyme disease all originating in animals before infecting humans.
Pictured, two pangolins at the Epe wet market curl up into a defensive ball in fear. The animals are being kept alive to be sold for their meat and scales
Video footage obtained by MailOnline shows many of the animals being abused before they are slaughtered; photographic evidence reveals vendors boiling animals including pangolins, dogs and manatees while they are still alive
A pangolin is butchered by a vendor who uses a machete to hack off the animal’s keratin scales to sell. The animal is dead at this stage but was boiled alive prior to this stage
Coronavirus DID start in China and ‘exploded’ at Wuhan wet market, WHO scientist says
The coronavirus pandemic started in China and ‘exploded’ at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, an Australian scientist investigating the origins of the pandemic claims.
Professor Dominic Dwyer was one of 14 scientists who travelled to China over the past month in a World Health Organisation investigation into the virus that has killed 2.3 million people around the world.
On Tuesday many were shocked to hear the leader of the WHO team, Peter Embarek, echo Communist Party’s assertions that frozen food imports, such as Australian beef, could have led to the initial outbreak.
However, Professor Dwyer, a microbiologist and infectious diseases expert, broke ranks with those claims, saying the source of the virus was most likely bats as previously suspected.
‘The evidence for it starting elsewhere in the world is actually very limited. There is some evidence but it’s not really very good,’ he told Nine News.
‘We know that other viruses that are closely related to [Covid-19] are present in bats. We know that other viruses like MERS and SARS back in 2003 also came from bats.
‘Now these bats don’t respect borders of course so they are present not just in China but in other parts on South East Asia and indeed elsewhere around the world.’
‘I think the explosion in the Wuhan market was really just an amplifying event. The virus had probably been circulating for some good few weeks beforehand among people in the community,’ he said.
His claim is at odds with the WHO and Chinese Government, which tried to argue the virus was not present anywhere before December 2019.
WildatLife, a charity working on the ground in Nigeria, visited Oluwu fish market in Epe, 55 miles east of Lagos.
The volunteers secretly recorded conditions at the market where vendors handle, butcher and sell live and dead animals.
‘Wet markets like Oluwo Fish Market located in Nigeria, facilitate and heavily contribute to the practice of illicit wildlife trade and in turn, this practice can lead to the spread of zoonotic diseases,’ WildatLife told MailOnline.
‘Transportation of animals for wildlife trade at these markets enables the spread of diseases from animals to other animals and pose a threat to human health.’
Dozens of primates can be seen in the footage stuck in small cages while snakes, crocodiles, duikers, sea turtles, manatees, rodents and parakeets are also present.
‘All animals are infected with something and only some are infectious to humans,’ Professor Bennett explains.
‘Having more animals in the same space and in close contact with each other makes it more likely something will emerge in humans.
‘The more biodiverse an area/country is (in the tropics for example), the higher risk there is that something is going to emerge.
‘There is an almost 100 per cent risk of something emerging in humans, but we can’t predict where that will be or what that will be.’
It is thought SARS-CoV-2 jumped from a bat and into an intermediate species, potentially a pangolin, where it then evolved to be able to infect humans.
It is possible this intermediate animal would have then passed the virus on to a human who visited the market. If the transient host was indeed a pangolin, this could have happened when the infected pangolin’s scales were ingested as a medicine or its meat was consumed.
The cacophony of fauna available in Epe are all sold for various reasons, often to be eaten or to be illegally shipped to other parts of the world where they will enter the black market of fashion or traditional medicine.
WildatLife tries to rescue, rehabilitate and release as many of the animals as it is safe to do so.
Ton, an infant baboon, was being held in a small bird cage at the market after his mother was killed by poachers.
Primates are sold for their meat and elsewhere in the market the charity found a crate of monkey skulls which were being sold after being boiled to remove any fur.
Ton was successfully saved as well as more than a dozen pangolins. One female pangolin gave birth just one day after being rescued from the market and both mother and baby were nurtured to full health.
Monkeys are all kept in tiny cages close together at the wet market east of Lagos, Nigeria
Ton, an infant baboon (pictured), was being held in a small bird cage at the market after his mother was killed by poachers. He was saved by conservationists and activists
Many primates at the Epe wet market are poached from the nearby wilderness and kept in small cages before being killed. Primates are close relative of humans and many diseases which infect them can also thrive in people. HIV jumped from chimps to humans more than 100 years ago
Primates are sold for their meat and at the market the charity found a crate of monkey skulls (pictured) which were being sold after being boiled to remove any fur
China cracks down on the hunting and trading of pangolins
China has stepped up the protection efforts of pangolins – believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammal – as the country continues to clamp down on the wild animal trade amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of January 2021, China’s national insurance program is no longer covering medicines containing pangolin products.
Chinese authorities in June 2020 increased the protection level of the critically endangered animals from class two to class one.
The move means anyone found guilty of hunting and trading pangolins would face double the jail term.
The general hunting and trading of pangolins has been banned in China since the late 1980s, but the exotic mammals are still trafficked by the thousands for their perceived nutritional value.
In February 2020, a team of Chinese scientists claimed that pangolins might be the link which allowed the bug to be passed onto people from bats.
Researchers at the South China Agricultural University identified the scaly mammal as a ‘potential intermediate host’.
The international scientific community has since debated over the proposition, and the exact source of the virus remains unknown.
Last month, researchers from China found that pangolins are indeed natural hosts for various coronaviruses, but do not appear to be the direct source of COVID-19.
Pangolins are coveted for their scales which are made up of keratin, the same material as human fingernails and the horn of rhinos. They are the only scaled mammals on Earth.
The scales act like armour and protects the soft underbelly from predators. But pangolin scales are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine as they are ground up and used in ointments. Despite no scientific evidence, many believe the scales have healing powers.
As a result, Asian pangolin species have been poached to the verge of extinction in Asia, and now its African relatives are being targeted to meet the high demand.
An international trade ban on all eight pangolin species was implemented in 2017, but it is being resolutely ignored by traffickers.
Pictured, a sea turtle which was rescued from the Epe wet market alongside a couple of pangolins
This crocodile is being stripped of its scales, which will be sold. Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Zoonotic and Emerging Disease at the University of Nottingham, told MailOnline: ‘If you were to want to maximise the risk of zoonotic transmission you would mix human contact with a wide range of animals — domestic and wild — and bring them together both alive and dead in the same area’
Pictured, a snake lying in a pool of blood on the floor of a stall at the Oluwu fish market in Epe, 55 miles east of Lagos. The volunteers secretly recorded conditions at the market where vendors handle, butcher and sell live and dead animals
Pictured, a dog which was boiled alive. The charred and blackened rea=mains were identified by experts working with WildatLife
Dozens of primates can be seen in the footage stuck in small cages while snakes, crocodiles, duikers (pictured, severed duiker heads), sea turtles, manatees, rodents and parakeets are also present
ZOONOTIC DISEASES: THESE ARE VIRUSES USUALLY STARTED IN WILD ANIMALS THAT CAN PASS TO OTHER SPECIES AND SURVIVE
Zoonotic diseases are able to pass from one species to another.
The infecting agent – called a pathogen – in these diseases is able to cross the species border and still survive.
They range in potency, and are often less dangerous in one species than they are in another.
In order to be successful they rely on long and direct contact with different animals.
Common examples are the strains of influenza that have adapted to survive in humans from various different host animals.
H5N1, H7N9 and H5N6 are all strains of avian influenza which originated in birds and infected humans.
These cases are rare but outbreaks do occur when a person has prolonged, direct exposure with infected animals.
The flu strain is also incapable of passing from human to human once a person is infected.
A 2009 outbreak of swine flu – H1N1 – was considered a pandemic and governments spent millions developing ‘tamiflu’ to stop the spread of the disease.
Influenza is zoonotic because, as a virus, it can rapidly evolve and change its shape and structure.
There are examples of other zoonotic diseases, such as chlamydia.
Chlamydia is a bacteria that has many different strains in the general family.
This has been known to happen with some specific strains, Chlamydia abortus for example.
This specific bacteria can cause abortion in small ruminants, and if transmitted to a human can result in abortions, premature births and life-threatening illnesses in pregnant women.
The Wildlife Justice Commission recently concluded that between 2016 and 2019 organised crime groups had 228 tons of pangolin scales seized by authorities.
It is thought this is likely from tens of thousand of pangolins, but the true scale will inevitably be much larger.
Pangolin scales have increased in value on the black market exponentially since the landmark 2018 ruling from China which banned its domestic ivory trade.
The report found China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Nigeria, and Democratic Republic of Congo account for 94 per cent of the underground pangolin trade.
Nigeria was the central provider , according to the report, and was responsible for 55 per cent of all seizures over the four-year window. China and Vietnam are the two most popular destinations.
China is taking steps to reduce the demand for pangolin scales, including removing pangolin products from China’s national insurance program.
‘China’s doing really well, but more needs to happen, especially in places like Nigeria, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore,’ Sarah Stoner, director of intelligence at the Wildlife Justice Commission, told Nat Geo.
Vietnam is now believed to be the biggest market for pangolin scales, and the trade networks between Nigeria and Vietnam are going from strength to strength.
Pictured, a female pangolin gave birth just one day after being rescued from the market and both mother and baby were nurtured to full health
More than a dozen pangolins have been rescued from the wet market and one had a baby (pictured)
First person ever infected with HIV was a starving World War One soldier who caught the virus in Cameroon while hunting chimps
AIDS has claimed more than 33million lives and its causative agent, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), has thus far proved impossible to find a vaccine for.
Drugs which prevent transmission of the virus and squash symptoms are now readily available in many countries, but 1.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2019.
Professor Jacques Pepin, an epidemiologist at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada, has been trying to discover the origin of HIV for decades, since his time as a GP in Zaire (today the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 1980s.
Previous studies found the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in chimps first crossed over into humans in South-East Cameroon at the start of the 20th century.
Simian immunodeficiency virus can be fatal to chimps and is exactly the same as HIV, the only difference between the two is the host it lives inside.
HIV is an example of zoonotic transmission, where a pathogen can cross from one species to another, like Covid-19, bird flu and cowpox.
In the acclaimed first edition of his book ‘Origin of AIDS’, published in 2011, Dr Pepin concluded HIV likely infected a hunter in Cameroon at the start of the 20th century, before spreading to Léopoldville, now known as Kinshasa in the Congo.
Now, a revised version of this ‘cut hunter’ hypothesis has been published which states the original ‘Patient Zero’ was not a native hunter, but instead a starving World War One soldier forced to hunt chimps for food when stuck in the remote forest around Moloundou, Cameroon in 1916 — giving rise to the ‘cut soldier’ theory.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Professor Pepin reveals how colonialism, starvation and prostitution helped create the ongoing AIDS epidemic.
Professor Jacques Pepin believes a hungry World War One soldier forced to hunt chimps for food when stuck in the remote forest around Moloundou, Cameroon in 1916 – the ‘cut soldier’ theory. Eventually, the soldier, after the war, came back all the way to Léopoldville and probably started the very first train of transmission in Léopoldville itself. From here, the virus spread and eventually was exported to the US, where it later went global