China’s temporary ban on all wildlife trade has not changed the fates of thousands of unfortunate bamboo rats in Guangdong province.
Images published online show how more than 3,000 of the woodland creatures were recently disposed of in a mass grave at a farm in Dongyuan county when the breeders were unable to continue to afford to feed the animals.
China bans wild animal trade
Trade on bamboo rats and other wildlife has been temporarily frozen until the Chinese government decides which types of animals can be bred and sold and which can not in this new post-coronavirus world.
The Covid-19 virus is widely believed to have originated at a wet market in the city of Wuhan where a wide variety of live wildlife was up for sale, providing a fertile ground for the deadly virus to jump from one species to another, mutating along the way and eventually finding a human host.
While such a ban on China’s very loosely regulated wildlife trade has been long called for, it has left China’s bamboo rat breeders in an unenviable position not of their own making.
It’s hard times for bamboo rat breeders
A number of local governments in rural parts of southern China had encouraged the breeding of bamboo rats with loans and other support to help supplement the income of farmers in impoverished regions while alsotrying to turn the large rodent into a popular delicacy.
Those farmers who took up the opportunity are now left with thousands of bamboo rats that they aren’t allowed to sell.
One farmer in northern Guangdong province told the Guardian that he’s been spending 300 yuan ($42) a day feeding the creatures for the past three months with no return on his investment.
In the case of the culled bamboo rats in Dongyuan, the five breeders are reported to have lost nearly 1 million yuan ($141,000) in total.
Last week, China’s agricultural ministry released a draft list of animals categorized as livestock — those that can be bred for meat, products, or medicinal use — which included 13 types of traditional livestock animals like pigs and cows and 18 kinds of more exotic animals like deer and ostriches.
Bamboo rats were not on that list.
The list is up for debate until May 8 and some hope that they will be a late addition.