BROADCASTER and naturalist Chris Packham has called for a worldwide ban on exotic animal markets, citing them as a possible cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby live on This Morning from his New Forest home, Chris said he and other wildlife campaigners had been demanding action be taken against the billion dollar illegal wildlife trade for years.

"Many of the species that you're talking about are being illegally transported around the world," he said. "Many of them, very sadly, because the trade has persisted for so long, have become endangered.

"One of the species which is linked to corona, and yet there's still ambiguity about where precisely this virus has come from, are pangolins.

"Now, pangolins are a relatively limited number of families and of species of animals. They do well in Africa, there are some in the Far East as well.

"The traditional medicine market of these Far Eastern countries believes that the pangolin scale and other body parts are of medical value to them. All other science suggests that that is utter nonsense."

While some research suggests pangolins can carry viruses closely related to the pandemic sweeping across the globe, the definitive cause of the outbreak remains unconfirmed.

According to some reports two groups of coronaviruses related to the virus behind the human pandemic have been identified on Malayan pangolins smuggled into China.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) first emerged in China at the beginning of the year. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals.

It is believed to have emerged at a market in Wuhan which sold dead and live animals

Seven of the viruses – including Covid-19 – have made the jump to humans.

Exactly how that has happened, and the animal source of Covid-19, remain undetermined. However, it is thought the original host may have been bats.

Chris told This Morning: "The pangolin, this scaled mammal, a very attractive, unusual, ant-eating, benign creature, is one of the most trafficked animals in the world and they're being brought from all over Africa and parts of the Far East into these markets, where, as you quite correctly assert, they're being mixed with species from other parts of the world, that they would never normally meet.

"Now, when they're moving, it's not just the pangolin, it's all of these natural pathogens that it has inside it.

"Viruses and bacteria which these species have evolved to deal with over millions of years. Now they're, from their point of view, benign pathogens.

"When they're mixed with other species, and when they get into the human food chain, then we see the results of this."