China's wildlife prosecutions up since COVID-19

China says it's seen a spike in prosecutions for wildlife-related crimes in the wake of COVID-19, up 66% from 2019.

The country's lucrative but poorly regulated wildlife trade came under fire in January after the first outbreak of COVID-19 was linked to a wet market in the city of Wuhan.

Scientists believe the pandemic originated in horseshoe bats and infected humans through an intermediary species, possibly pangolins.

In February, Chinese legislators passed a resolution banning the sale and consumption of wild animals like bats, pangolins, exotic birds, and arctic foxes.

China's Prosecutor General's Office says after that, more than 15,000 people have seen legal action taken against them in the first nine months of 2020.

Some exceptions to the ban were open for uses in traditional medicine.

Since then, two major wildlife breeding provinces offered to exchange animals for cash so hunters and breeders could switch professions.

Chinese prosecutors warned that much of the illegal wildlife trade had shifted online, with the "exotic pet" market a new threat to public health and the safety of animals.