Raccoon dogs linked to coronavirus pandemic: What are these animals?

Source: The post is based on the article “Raccoon dogs linked to coronavirus pandemic: What are these animals?” published in Indian Express on 20th March 2023

What is the News?

A report has suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could have originated in raccoon dogs which were sold illegally at the Wuhan wet market.

What are Racoon Dogs?

Raccoon dogs are neither dogs nor raccoons. They belong to the canid family and are closely related to foxes. 

They are the only canids that hibernate during the winter.

They are omnivores and relish food sources such as rodents and berries

Where are Racoon dogs found?

Raccoon dogs are originally from East Asia and are commonly found in parts of China, Korea and Japan, where they are known as tanuki. 

They are also found in Europe, where they were first brought in by fur traders in the 1920s. Today, raccoon dogs are considered to be a threat to the local ecosystem in Europe and an EU report declared them “one of the most successful alien carnivores in Europe”.

How are Racoon dogs linked to coronavirus?

A report has said that raccoon dogs and related mammals sold for food at a live animal market in China in 2003 were found to carry a coronavirus similar to the virus found in humans during a SARS coronavirus outbreak at the time.

But this doesn’t mean they are the natural reservoir for coronaviruses. Scientists believe there is a possibility the tested raccoon dogs, including those in the Wuhan market, might have picked up the virus from bats or another species.

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