This is an excerpt from an article written by Michaeleen Doucleff and published online by NPR on 15 March, 2021

A member of the World Health Organization investigative team says wildlife farms in southern China are the most likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China shut down those wildlife farms in February 2020, says Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist with EcoHealth Alliance and a member of the WHO delegation that traveled to China this year. During that trip, Daszak says, the WHO team found new evidence that these wildlife farms were supplying vendors at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan with animals.

Daszak told NPR that the government response was a strong signal that the Chinese government thought those farms were the most probable pathway for a coronavirus in bats in southern China to reach humans in Wuhan.

Those wildlife farms, including ones in the Yunnan region, are part of a unique project that the Chinese government has been promoting for 20 years now.

“They take exotic animals, like civets, porcupines, pangolins, raccoon dogs and bamboo rats, and they breed them in captivity,” says Daszak.

The agency is expected to release the team’s investigative findings in the next two weeks. In the meantime, Daszak gave NPR a highlight of what the team figured out.