More than 100 wild animals in China died from poisoning in a mass die-off seemingly triggered by coronavirus disinfectant

Members of a police sanitation team spraying disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Bozhou, China. STR/AFP via Getty Images
  • More than 100 wild animals were found dead in a Chinese megacity and tests show that they were poisoned by the disinfectant that’s being used to combat the coronavirus.
  • At least 17 species of animals, including wild boar, weasels, and blackbirds, were affected by the mass die-off.
  • Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue claims that authorities are killing domesticated animals outright amid fears that they can spread the coronavirus.
  • Animal activists shared distressing footage on Weibo: bloodied animals, a man hitting a dog with a stick, and an officer poking a lifeless dog.
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Animals are the latest victims of the coronavirus crisis in mainland China.

Amid a scramble to control the spread of COVID-19, Chinese authorities believe, based on samples and tests, that at least 135 wild animals were poisoned by disinfectants being used to curb the illness, United Press International said based on reports from China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua.

The mass die-off was reported in the megacity of Chongqing, in southwest China, which, in 2016, was home to over 30 million people. At least 17 species of animals, including wild boar, weasels, and blackbirds, have been affected, according to the Chongqing Forestry Bureau.

Tests have shown that the animals didn’t die of any diseases such as coronavirus or bird flu, UPI said. They will be buried in disinfected sites.

Chinese state media said Chongqing is rounding up an estimated 5,300 forest rangers to monitor wildlife in the area. They will be accompanied by 200 “full-time supervisors,” Xinhua reported, although it’s unclear what they will be doing.

Pets aren’t being spared either

This may have been an unintended consequence of an official policy but animal rights activists with the Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue claim that authorities are killing domesticated animals outright amid fears that they can spread the coronavirus.

Officers in the Sichuan Province are allegedly knocking on people’s doors and ordering residents to hand over their pets, while people beg for their companions to be spared, Metro UK reported. The group has accused Chinese authorities of killing the animals within minutes of getting their hands on them.

Weibo animal activist
Bloodied animals are in the back of a truck in this picture shared by an animal activist on Weibo. Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue/Weibo

An activist shared several distressing images on Weibo: bloodied animals in a truck, a person hitting a dog with a wooden stick and an officer prodding a dog that was lying dead on the side of the road while people looked on.

Local officials have denied the accusations, saying animals were only killed if they had bitten anyone.

Metro UK also reported that residents of Hubei province – where the COVID-19 outbreak originated – were ordered to “deal with” their pets within five days. Animals weren’t allowed outside people’s homes and would be caught and killed, if they were found. These measures were also enforced in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei, and Shanghai.

Animal activist weibo china coronavirus
Amid fears that animals can spread coronavirus, Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue shared an image on Weibo in which an officer is seen prodding a lifeless dog. Nanchong Stray Animal Rescue/Weibo

Li Lanjuan, a professor and member of China’s National Health Commission, sparked these steps by warning people to quarantine pets if they had come in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, according to reports.

Coronavirus has affected 75,465 people and killed 2,236 as of Friday, according to the National Health Commission. China plans to ban its wild animal trade and tighten supervision on “wet markets,” which is where the coronavirus was reported to have started, although subsequent research cast doubt over that finding.