BERLIN, Germany (Oct. 13, 2023) – The following statement was issued by Monica Medina, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in connection to a keynote speech she delivered at the Breaking Barriers conference on One Health in Berlin, Oct. 12 and 13: (See full speech here.)

Said Medina:

“We are currently in the midst of three integrated human-caused global crises: massive biodiversity loss, climate change, and emerging infectious diseases/pandemics. There is strong evidence that where tropical forests are destroyed or degraded, where wild species have disappeared or been depleted and habitats have been destroyed, often due to unsustainable subsistence or market hunting, this has significant harmful impacts on biodiversity as well as the well-being of local communities.

“When people and their livestock come into close contact with live wildlife, either due to commercial markets or forest destruction, pathogens in wildlife can and will spill over to people or other animals. It is inevitable only if we allow business-as-usual to continue. Reducing harmful human impacts on the environment is a significant primary medical intervention in itself—for our health, and for the health of all ecosystems on this planet.

“To combat the risk of pathogen spillover, we must follow the science. That means we must work together to halt deforestation, protect and retain intact ecosystems, close commercial markets for live birds and mammals, improve communities' access to health and economic security in disease hotspots, and enhance biosecurity in livestock husbandry while expanding pathogen surveillance in wildlife and the environment.

“A new focus on prevention of pandemic at the source aligns with the One Health approach that WCS helped to develop in 2004. One Health acknowledges that human and livestock health are inextricably tied to the health of wildlife and ecosystems.

“We need holistic and equitable expansion of our outdated public health approaches, including tight integration of the environment and climate. The evidence is clear: protecting biodiversity is critical for the health and well-being of all.

“We knew enough to act before COVID19, but today we know far more. The time for action is now.”