GRAPHIC WARNING: Animals including pangolins, primates and sea turtles are seen at a Nigerian wet market
Wild animals that are thought to have been illegally killed are found both dead and alive at Oluwu fish market
Exclusive footage shows vendors keeping animals in unhygienic conditions and not wearing any form of PPE
Experts warn environments like these are a perfect melting pot for zoonotic diseases, such as SARS-CoV-2
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.
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.