With the current outbreak of the corona virus disease (COVID-19), global attention has been drawn to the significant health risks posed by eating wild animals. COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus2, or SARS-CoV-2 in short which Originated in Wuhan in Hubei, China early December 2019, the global outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), many of the so-called emerging diseases such as Ebola, AIDS, SARS, avian influenza, swine flu and today the new corona virus are not spontaneous, catastrophic events, but the consequence of our impact on natural ecosystems and wildlife.
The Zoonotic Disease
Corona viruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people and researchers found that MERS-CoV was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans and SARS-CoV from civet cats to humans. It is known that several corona viruses are circulating in animal populations that have not yet infected humans.
The spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 is a result of wildlife trafficking and wildlife consumption, a rapidly growing and multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Wild animals are hunted or bred on wildlife farms and sold on markets for food or traditional medicine and for the pet trade. Even endangered animals are often sold openly in wildlife markets in China and other Asian countries.
The COVID-19 virus was transferred by human interference with the animals. The capturing, slaughtering, trading and consumption of the animals are the proximate or direct cause of the virus infection and eventual spread.
Ban on Trade and Consumption of Wildlife
China the origin of this deadly virus has acknowledged it needs to bring its rampant wildlife industry under control if it is to prevent another outbreak. Hence the African Conservation Foundation welcomed China’s decision to temporarily ban all farming and consumption of “terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value”.
Indeed, there are strong indications that the current outbreak of the corona virus originated in a seafood market illegally selling wildlife in Wuhan, China, and a line of thinking that the virus was passed during transport or trade from bats to pangolins and people. This must be a wake-up call that there is need to have greater respect for nature and that the trade of wildlife needs to be tackled. It is not the first time that the world has been threatened by a pandemic likely originating from trade in wildlife. The SARS outbreak in 2003, which broke out in Guangdong, China, is thought to have originated in bats, and spread via civet cats to humans. The ban is expected to be signed into law later this year by China
As an immediate result, nearly 20,000 wildlife farms raising various species like civet cats, porcupines, ostriches, wild geese and boar have been closed across China.
Following China’s lead, Vietnam also took to ending the consumption and sale of wild animals. The Vietnam’s Prime Minister instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to draft a plan to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals across the country which is welcome.
More widely, climate change also alters the way infectious diseases transmit and displaces people from their former homes forcing them to travel to new locations in overcrowded conditions. It’s also clear that in this way like in so many others by protecting nature, we also protect ourselves and wildlife.
The Positive actions taken to Preserve Wildlife.
In a time of such negative news, it’s encouraging to see that some governments have already taken action to stop the spread of disease by protecting nature. For example, in February China introduced tough new measures to address the concern that the virus had its origin in wild animals. These include a moratorium on all wildlife trade, and an unprecedented ban on the consumption of wild animals as food. Whilst the exact pathway of the corona virus from animals to humans is not yet proven, this move will certainly protect humans from other harmful diseases, as well as being a blessing for wildlife.
In order to prevent future pandemics there is need to change our relationship with wildlife by 1) Stopping of the wildlife trade.
2) Stopping wildlife consumption.
3) Stopping the destruction of nature.