Inside the Global Quest to Trace the Origins of COVID-19 —and Predict Where It Will Go Next

It wasn’t greed, or curiosity, that made Li Rusheng grab his shotgun and enter Shitou Cave. It was about survival. During Mao-era collectivization of the early 1970s, food was so scarce in the emerald valleys of southwestern China’s Yunnan province that farmers like Li could expect to eat meat only once a year–if they were lucky. So, craving protein, Li and his friends would sneak into the cave to hunt the creatures they could hear squeaking and fluttering inside: bats. Li would creep into the gloom and fire blindly at the vaulted ceiling, picking up any quarry that fell to the ground, while his companions held nets over the mouth of the cave to snare fleeing bats. They cooked them in the traditional manner of Yunnan’s ethnic Yi people: boiled to remove hair and skin, gutted and fried. “They’d be small ones, fat ones,” says Li, now 81, sitting on a wall overlooking fields of tobacco seedlings. “The meat is very tender. But I’ve not been in that cave for over 30 years now,” he adds, shaking his head wistfully. “They were very hard times.” China today bears little resemblance to the impoverished nation of Li’s youth. Since Deng Xiaoping embraced market reforms in 1979, the Middle Kingdom has gone from strength to strength. Today it is the world’s No. 2 economy and top trading nation. It has more billionaires than the U.S. and more high-speed rail than the rest of the world combined. Under curre...
Source: TIME: Health - Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Tags: Uncategorized COVID-19 feature Magazine Source Type: news

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