This trending moment seen 170 million times online shows Chinese officials chasing an unusual cat-like animal known as a civet whose species was blamed for the 2002 SARS coronavirus outbreak.
Members of the Forestry Bureau in Yichuan County, which is in Central China’s Henan Province, were called by local residents who spotted the masked palm civet (Paguma larvata) sleeping on the central reservation of Wenhua North Road on 12th March.
Viral footage shows uniformed officers driving the civet from the shrubs and giving chase as witnesses flee in fear.
The animal, which is a nocturnal predator, was grabbed by its tail and put in a sack, footage shows.
It was not immediately whether the civet was wild or had escaped captivity.
Officer Jin Yi, with the Yichuan County Forestry Bureau, told Asia Wire: “After we received reports, we rushed over with our tools and found the civet lying in the shrubs.
“I took a look and confirmed it was a masked palm civet, so we immediately moved to catch it.
“It’s very difficult to catch with a net. They don’t tend to run into the net, and this one was quite fat.
“We could only drive it out of the shrubs and grab it by its tail. It cannot retaliate when grabbed by the tail, because its head can’t reach.”
Mr Jin said the captured civet was one of four found between 3rd and 13rd March.
The animals, which are likely appearing due to the March-April mating season, will be kept under observation and eventually handed to a wildlife rescue shelter.
Mr Jin added: “Civets are classed as animals with economic and research value, but since they can carry pathogens, people are paying special attention to them recently.”
“We remind members of the public not to approach wild animals. If you see one, call the authorities and wait for experts to arrive.
“If you try to catch it yourself and it bites or scratches you… We don’t know whether it was carrying any diseases, so do not touch or provoke them.”
In China, civets are eaten as exotic meat, which is strongly believed to have caused the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome – or SARS – outbreak.
In 2006, Chinese sciences established a direct link between civets and the SARS disease, which is caused by the SARS coronavirus – or SARS-CoV – jumping from animal to human.
The consumption of civets and all other forms of wildlife has been banned in China since February.
Researchers have found strong links between COVID-19, which is caused by SARS-CoV-2, and pangolin and bat coronaviruses, specifically in the horseshoe bat family.
The death toll of COVID-19 has surpassed 6,500, with nearly 170,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
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