Chinese officials are trying to export snakes and other exotic animals overseas — despite banning the consumption of them over fears it sparked the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
The finance ministry has issued new incentives to get the creatures out of the country, offering tax rebates to ship out animal products such as edible snakes and turtles, primate meat and rhino horns, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The deadly coronavirus is believed to have emerged in late December from wild animals in markets in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Snakes and bats have both been eyed as possible hosts of the virus, which has spread to more than 1.7 million people across the globe.
The National People’s Congress imposed a ban in late February on the sale and consumption of wild animals, such as bats and snakes, claiming the issue had become a health concern, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The prominent problem of recklessly eating wild animals and its potential risk to public health have aroused wide public concern,” a spokesman said at the time, according to the outlet.
Meanwhile, the new tax incentives to encourage the sale of wildlife overseas has raised concern in a new congressional report.
The US Congressional Research Service, which works on nonpartisan analysis for Congress, said attempts to push wild animal sales abroad, while prohibited in China, “could spread the risk to global markets,” according to the newspaper.