A video purportedly taken inside a Wuhan lab and appearing to show bats in cages has fuelled speculation about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic after garnering more than 1 million views since it emerged earlier this week.
A team of self-described "underground researchers," who told Newsweek they are dedicated to exposing the origins of COVID-19, unearthed the footage. It is said to have been taken by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and produced for the launch of the Wuhan level 4 laboratory back in May 2017
The group, who call themselves DRASTIC, which stands for Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19, compiled a detailed collection of documents, images, and laboratory data allegedly taken from the Wuhan facility.
The 144-page report, titled "Wuhan laboratories, bat research and biosafety," was published to Research Gate in April.
Snippets of footage from the report were broadcast by Sky News Australia on Sunday night and pegged as a "world exclusive." It was later uploaded to YouTube under the headline: "Footage proves bats were kept in Wuhan lab."
The collection shows bats inside a cage, while another shows a researcher feeding a bat a live worm. One still image shows a group of hazmat-clad researchers "capturing bats" and another shows a bat hanging from a woman's hat.
The footage is believed to come from a 10-minute video titled "The construction and research team of Wuhan P4 laboratory of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences," taken from inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Officials inside the lab were aware of the presence of live bats inside the facility before the outbreak of COVID-19 and a World Health Organization report investigating the origin of the pandemic "failed to mention that any bats had been kept at the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Sky News alleged.
"It shows that much of what we've been told about the origin of the pandemic from the very beginning was Chinese disinformation which was then propagated by many people who had been working in conjunction with the Wuhan Institute of Virology who are compromised, who had extreme conflicts of interest," Sky News host Sharri Markson later told Fox News' Tucker Carlson.
"The Wuhan Institute of Virology kept live bats in cages .... disproving denials from World Health Organization investigators who claimed the suggestion was a 'conspiracy'."
Markson pointed towards one member of the World Health Organization team investigating the origin of the pandemic in Wuhan, Peter Daszak, and noted the zoologist said it was a conspiracy to suggest bats were held at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"No BATS were sent to Wuhan lab for genetic analysis of viruses collected in the field. That's now how this science works. We collect bat samples, send them to the lab. We RELEASE bats where we catch them!" Daszak tweeted in December of 2020.
"This is a widely circulated conspiracy theory. This piece describes work I'm the lead on and labs I've collaborated with for 15 years. They DO NOT have live or dead bats in them. There is no evidence anywhere that this happened. It's an error I hope will be corrected," he tweeted again on December 10 of 2020.
Markson told Carlson: "People like Peter Daszak insisted that it was a conspiracy theory – he used the term in a tweet from December 2020 – that it was a conspiracy theory to say that there were bats in the lab.
"He's an official WHO, World Health Organisation, investigator who went into Wuhan to supposedly investigate the origins of the virus earlier this year and it was completely false.
"This new footage shows that there were bats being kept in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and it's something Peter Daszak has had to admit, has had to correct just this month."
Newsweek has contacted WHO and Daszak for comment.
DRASTIC, which discovered the recently published footage, is composed of about two dozen or so amateur sleuths and correspondents, many anonymous, working across the world.
They scour the internet for clues and uncover obscure documents and other information that they disseminate over Twitter. More recently, their research has drawn a larger following, including many professional scientists and journalists.
"Daszak lied many times, the Wuhan Institute of Virology failed to tell the World Health Organization, WHO failed to ask, DRASTIC had to dig all this information out, piece by piece and the video is the final evidence supporting all our earlier claims of live bats at the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory," DRASTIC told Newsweek.
The idea that the coronavirus pandemic could have been triggered by a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China, has gained traction in recent months. President Joe Biden has ordered a report by U.S. intelligence on the origins of COVID-19.