Global Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society and WildAid Launch Coalition to End the Commercial Trade of Terrestrial Wild Animals for Consumption, Particularly Birds and Mammals, to Prevent the Spread of Zoonotic Disease
NEW YORK (April 21, 2020) – The global trade in wild animals has produced the conditions for disastrous and deadly pandemics, including COVID-19. To prevent the next pandemic, the Coalition to End the Trade is calling for the permanent end to the commercial trade and sale in markets of terrestrial wild animals for consumption, particularly birds and mammals. Global Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and WildAid are launching this coalition to implement key strategies that seek to end this trade.
The coalition is also working in partnership with the European Commission to end the illegal trade of wildlife in part to help build a strong network of global voices on this crisis.
“The European Union is committed to combat wildlife trafficking and implement its Green Deal,” said Jutta Urpilainen, EU commissioner for international partnerships. “I believe that partnerships are the only way to tackle global crises, so I am committing €10 million to support the emergency response for the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems. As a parent and commissioner for international partnerships, I am working for a safe and healthy planet for all our children.”
The coalition is inviting conservationists, scientists, policymakers, health professionals and the general public to join in driving a global paradigm shift to prevent future pandemics by signing the coalition’s Declaration to End the Trade—a petition to the governments of the world to permanently ban the commercial trade in terrestrial wild animals for consumption. The coalition aims to collect at least 1 million signatures on the declaration collectively from both individuals and organizations.
“This tragic pandemic and the havoc that it has wreaked around the planet is a resounding wakeup call for humankind,” said Wes Sechrest, chief scientist and CEO of Global Wildlife Conservation. “We need the courage now to reexamine our relationship with nature and shut down the commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals, otherwise it is very likely that zoonotic pandemics will continue to impact our global society. The Coalition to End the Trade is answering the call and encouraging the rest of the world to join us.”
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 jumped from a host animal that evolved over millennia—likely a species of horseshoe bat—to humans either through direct contact with a bat and/or its droppings or indirectly through an intermediary host (another animal) that would have contracted the pathogen from the bat and then passed it along to humans somewhere along the trade chain.
Said Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO: “By recognizing zoonotic pandemics as one of the three interrelated and existential crises which humanity has created, along with climate change and biodiversity loss, we take the first vital step in solving these all together and bringing about an inflection point for the planet. We now need a radical change in the global concept of wildlife trade.”
From source to market, conditions inherent to the wild animal supply chain (both legal and illegal) for consumption pose a high risk for the emergence and transmission of zoonotic pathogens, which caused the current COVID-19 pandemic. This viral spillover likely occurred in a commercial market where wild animals (along with domestic animals) were being sold for consumption.
The recent coronavirus is just one example of a succession of pathogens infecting people that have come from commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals for consumption or contact between wild animals and domestic animals. These interactions often result in the transmission of pathogens that cause diseases in humans, including AIDS, SARS, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu and more.
Each year zoonotic diseases are responsible for more than two billion cases of human illness and more than two million human deaths, according to a report from the Zoological Society of London and Hanoi School of Public Health. Experts estimate that out of the 1.6 million potential viruses in mammals and birds, 700,000 could pose a future risk to human health.
A wide variety of wildlife species carry a multitude of potential zoonotic agents–bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. More often than not, these infectious agents do not affect the animals in which they reside, but represent an enormous hazard to humans (especially when commercially traded or sold in markets) who have no natural immunity to them.
As one example of the public support for permanently ending the commercial trade in terrestrial wild animals, a Peking University survey found that of the more than 100,000 residents of China who participated in the survey, nearly 97 percent are strongly against eating wild animals. The Coalition to End the Trade is inviting individuals and organizations worldwide to join this movement to prevent future pandemics by signing the Declaration to End the Trade, which outlines the compelling reasons to permanently end the commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals for consumption, including its implications for global health, economics, security, and biodiversity.
The Coalition to End the Trade is seeking to mobilize resources to support the declaration’s call to end the commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals for consumption. Key strategies include demand reduction, closure of supply chains and the active monitoring for pathogens. Specifically, the declaration calls for national governments to:
1) Enact suitable legislation to permanently end commercial trade and sale in markets of terrestrial wild animals for consumption, particularly birds and mammals;
2) Empower relevant agencies to adequately enforce such legislation;
3) Develop ethical and equitable transition measures for those whose livelihoods are impacted across the trade chain.
These recommendations do not pertain to subsistence hunting by indigenous people and local communities for household consumption and/or cultural identity. If people are eating wild animals because they have no alternatives, then national governments must commit to helping ensure that they have access to sustainably produced domestic animal or plant foods, which can provide them with a reliable and sanitary source of high-quality food and reduce the risk of exposure to novel zoonotic pathogens.
“Mobilizing a global response to end the wildlife trade is the most pressing action we can take today to ensure a pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid. “If you care about your health, you should care about wildlife conservation.”
Among its strategies, the coalition is supporting protected areas to increase their management effectiveness. This will reduce the trade of wild animals and decrease the spread of wildlife pathogens. The work will provide support for field sites to test and monitor frontline staff for pathogen outbreaks to ensure their health and safety, as well as reduce the opportunity of transmission back into the wild, particularly to great apes, who may be at increased risk. In particular, it will also allow for a rapid response mechanism that will help sustain the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and rangers so that they can continue to protect high-value ecosystems.
Brian Sheth of Sheth Sangreal Foundation and Simone Friedman of EJF Philanthropies are providing founding philanthropic support for the End the Trade campaign. Simone Friedman is also mobilizing other philanthropic support including from the Jeremy Coller Foundation, Sarena Snider of The Snider Foundation, and Christian Dietrich.
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Global Wildlife Conservation
GWC conserves the diversity of life on Earth by safeguarding wildlands, protecting wildlife and supporting guardians. We maximize our impact through scientific research, biodiversity exploration, habitat conservation, protected area management, wildlife crime prevention, endangered species recovery, and conservation leadership cultivation. Learn more at https://globalwildlife.org
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.
WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. WildAid primarily works to reduce global demand for and consumption of wildlife products, such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup, with media campaigns and support for strengthened regulations and enforcement. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $230 million in annual pro-bono media placement with a simple message: “When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.”
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