Denmark plans to cull as many as 17 million otters, the country’s entire otter population,media The Verge reported. Earlier reports suggested the animals could pass on a mutated new coronavirus to humans. Danish Prime Minister Mehmet Fraser-Rickson announced the news at a news conference on Wednesday, and no scientific report on the mutation and its effects has yet been released.
The new coronavirus has been found in more than 200 mink farms in Denmark, one of the world’s largest producers of mink. More than a million animals were culled on Danish farms in October. About 100,000 otters were culled in Spain this summer after a similar outbreak. An outbreak at a mink farm in Utah has killed thousands of animals.
Denmark’s announcement comes after 12 people in the country were found to be infected with a mutant new coronavirus, which has also been found in otter farms. Wednesday’s order aims to prevent the spread of this particular mutation. “Continued aquaculture of otters will pose a significant risk to public health, both domestically and internationally,” Kare Molbak, executive vice president of the Danish Infectious Diseases Authority, said in a press release.
Scientists have yet to release scientific data on the mutation or its behavior, although Fraser Rickerson said Wednesday that the variant is less sensitive to antibodies to the virus. This requires more context to understand the mutation and its possible impact on the trajectory of the epidemic and the development of treatments and vaccines. “When we have more information, scientists will update,” tweeted Emma Hodcroft, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland.