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XISHUANGBANNA, China—A crucial next step in the hunt for Covid-19’s origins is to examine farms that supplied wild animals to the market where many early cases were found.
There’s one big problem: Almost all the animals are gone.
Farmers who bred or trapped wild animals for food, fur or traditional medicine in China, including in a hilly region near the border with Laos and Myanmar, say they killed, sold or released their stock after Chinese officials ordered them early last year to stop their trade.
“The government bought them up and had them all killed,” said Yang Bo, a 40-year-old farmer in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. He used to breed about 1,000 bamboo rats a year, selling them for 120 yuan, or about $19, a kilo. “We had to let all our workers go.”

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