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Coronavirus an unlikely gift in Thailand's fight to save wildlife

China's Xi bans illicit trade as epidemic's link to smuggling becomes clear

A veterinarian scans a microchip in a tiger at Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi province, Thailand, in October 2016.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Chinese President Xi Jingping has become an ally of Southeast Asian sleuths on the trail of criminal gangs involved in the illegal wildlife trade, an unexpected -- and positive -- side effect of the new coronavirus epidemic.

Xi issued a directive banning wildlife smuggling, giving a shot in the arm to Thai investigators, who have been battling the illegal trade for decades. Thailand is a key node for traffickers looking to move their catch from the forests of Africa to markets in China.

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