Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray
Scientists are largely agreed that the coronavirus probably evolved in bats. But they also think it's likely it spread to another species first, before infecting humans.
That species is still unknown, but one suspect has been the pangolin - a critically endangered mammal with scale armour - in which there's a booming black market.
But whether the pangolin is guilty or not, conservationists hope its link to a deadly virus could deter enough consumers to effectively bring an end to its illegal trade.
“I think if the message is very clear that it is a human welfare argument, not just an animal welfare argument, and this is the beginning it’s not the end,” said Yolan Friedman from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, who has hope the slaughter of the species will stop.
Ground Zero for the pandemic was a market in Wuhan, where live animals were sold for human consumption – a perfect place for the virus to mutate and to jump species.
Millions of pangolins, dead and alive, are smuggled into China for their meat and for their scales.
The link with the market and the virus is contested but the potential danger is not.
“If you keep animals in that way and you eat them, you’re going to be eating whatever they are going through,” said Nicci Wright of the African Pangolin Working Group.
“And disease is going to be one of the things that you’re consuming.”
China has not banned the consumption of wild animals but the pangolin trade has been illegal for years, although this has not stopped it.
But convince the consumer they’re linked to a deadly disease and perhaps the disaster that is Covid-19 will contain one small but significant conservation.
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