As quickly as Edward Holmes noticed the dark-ringed eyes of the raccoon canine looking at him via the bars of the iron cage, he knew he had to capture the moment.
It was October 2014. Dr. Holmes, a biologist on the University of Sydney, had come to China to survey a whole bunch of species of animals, in search of new kinds of viruses.
On a go to to Wuhan, a industrial middle of 11 million folks, scientists from the town’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention introduced him to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. In stall after stall of the poorly ventilated area, he noticed dwell wild animals — snakes, badgers, muskrats, birds — being offered for meals. But it was the raccoon canine that made him pull out his iPhone.
As one of many world’s consultants on virus evolution, Dr. Holmes had an intimate understanding of how viruses can bounce from one species to one other — typically with lethal penalties. The SARS outbreak of 2002 was brought on by a bat coronavirus in China that contaminated some form of wild mammal earlier than infecting people. Among the top suspects for that intermediate animal: the fluffy raccoon canine.
“You could not get a better textbook example of disease emergence waiting to happen,” Dr. Holmes, 57, said in an interview.
The photographs light from his thoughts till the final day of 2019. As Dr. Holmes was searching Twitter from his Sydney house, he realized of an alarming outbreak in Wuhan — a SARS-like pneumonia with early circumstances linked to the Huanan market. The raccoon canine, he thought.
“It was a pandemic waiting to happen, and then it bloody well happened,” he said.