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Nearly 4,000 civets killed in Guangdong

Guangdong killed nearly 4,000 civet cats between January 1 and Monday during their high-profile effort to prevent spread of SARS.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 13:09 IST

Health authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong killed nearly 4,000 civet cats between Jan. 1 and Monday during their high-profile effort to prevent the spread of SARS, a provincial official said Friday.

In addition to the 3,903 civets who were eradicated, 665 other wild animals were slaughtered as well during that period, said Wang Zhiqiong, deputy director-general of the Guangdong Public Health Department.

"All the civet cats that we found and disposed of were in restaurants, markets and farms. All civets in the mountain habitats will be untouched," Wang said at a news conference. Civets, weasel-like mammals that are considered a delicacy in southern China, have been identified as possible transmitters of the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, although no definitive proof has been found that they are the source of human infections.

Last week, authorities swept through restaurants and animal markets and killed off civet cats en masse, hoping to prevent SARS from spreading beyond the one confirmed and two suspected cases this season.

One reporter informed Wang that civets were still available in Guangdong _ but that the price had gone up.

"I encourage you to report this person to the relevant authorities. You will get a reward of 30,000 yuan (US$3,600)," Wang said to laughter.

Also Friday, Guangdong said it has asked surrounding Chinese provinces and regions to stop people from shipping civets into the province. The provincial Forestry Bureau has set up checkpoints at provincial boundaries to check traffic for civets and other suspect animals.

Xu Ruiheng, deputy director of the Guangdong Center for Disease Control, said he had recommended that the civet ban become permanent. He couldn't say whether that would happen.

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 13:09 IST