Zoonosis Threat: Urgent Call for More Effective Wildlife Trade Legislation in Wake of COVID-19

Cambodia Wildlife Market

Market store in Cambodia. A reduction in the interaction between people, wildlife and livestock along with effective protection of habitats and wildlife, is the only way to reduce the risk of future zoonoses like COVID-19. Credit: Kit Magellan

International research team including Göttingen University makes urgent call for more effective wildlife trade legislation.

Many diseases, such as COVID-19, have made the jump from animals to people with serious consequences for the human host. An international research team, including researchers from the University of Göttingen, says that more epidemics resulting from animal hosts are inevitable unless urgent action is taken. In order to protect against future pandemics which might be even more serious, they call for governments to establish effective legislation addressing wildlife trade, protection of habitats and reduction of interaction between people, wildlife and livestock. Their review was published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Malaysia Wildlife Market

Wildlife markets like this one in Malaysia need to be better regulated to protect against the risks of a future pandemic. Credit: Chong Ju Lian

An infectious disease caused by a pathogen — such as a bacterium, virus, or parasite — that has jumped from an animal to a human is known as “zoonosis.” In the last thirty years, the majority of human pathogens which have caused substantial damage to human health and economies have originated from wildlife or livestock. Such diseases include Ebola, AIDS and SARS. COVID-19 is among the latest of these zoonotic diseases and is currently a pandemic that has resulted in more than a million deaths worldwide.

Two primary factors that facilitate such outbreaks are wildlife trade and fragmentation of natural habitat, both of which increase the frequency and potential for direct contact between humans and wildlife. Animals in wildlife markets are often housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that create the perfect environment for pathogens to jump to humans. In addition, natural habitats are being cleared to meet the growing demands of an increasing human population, which puts livestock and people in closer contact with the wild hosts of potential zoonotic pathogens. Addressing these two factors could help prevent future zoonotic diseases.

Recognizing that COVID-19 may have emerged from wildlife markets, the governments of China, Vietnam, and Korea have all introduced some form of regulation to control wildlife trade since the outbreak, each of which goes some way to supporting wildlife conservation. These actions provide examples for other countries to consider. The authors, however, advise against a sudden blanket ban on wildlife markets as this will have a disproportionately high negative impact on disadvantaged, migrant and rural populations that depend on such markets for their subsistence. Rather, a range of measures should be considered, including governments working with local communities to create and maintain alternative means of subsistence before appropriate bans — specifically on live animals and non-food wildlife products — are considered.

“The coronavirus pandemic has inevitably focussed our energy on managing the disease. But in order to prevent the next outbreak — whatever form that might take — there needs to be recognition that people’s relationship with the natural world must change,” explains co-author Dr. Trishna Dutta, University of Göttingen, Department of Wildlife Sciences. She goes on to say, “There needs to be urgent action to regulate the trade of wildlife and reduce consumer demand for wildlife parts and products. This should be done in tandem with protecting native ecosystems and reducing the wildlife-livestock-human interface which originally sparked this pandemic.”

Reference: “COVID-19 highlights the need for more effective wildlife trade legislation” by Amaël Borzée, Jeffrey McNeely, Kit Magellan, Jennifer R.B. Miller, Lindsay Porter, Trishna Dutta, Krishnakumar P. Kadinjappalli, Sandeep Sharma, Ghazala Shahabuddin, Fikty Aprilinayati, Gerard E. Ryan, Alice Hughes, Aini Hasanah Abd Mutalib, Ahmad Zafir Abdul Wahab, Damber Bista, Suchana Apple Chavanich, Ju Lian Chong, George A. Gale, Hanyeh Ghaffari, Yadav Ghimirey, Vijaya Kumaran Jayaraj, Ambika Prasad Khatiwada, Monsoon Khatiwada, Murali Krishna, Ngwe Lwin, Prakash Kumar Paudel, Chinara Sadykova, Tommaso Savini, Bharat Babu Shrestha, Colin T. Strine, Makamas Sutthacheep, Ee Phin Wong, Thamasak Yeemin, Natasha Zulaika Zahirudin and Li Zhang, 7 October 2020, Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2020.10.001

1 Comment on "Zoonosis Threat: Urgent Call for More Effective Wildlife Trade Legislation in Wake of COVID-19"

  1. Sekar Vedaraman | November 18, 2020 at 8:41 am | Reply

    It is a start. However , it barely scratches the surface. Reasons are as follows:

    The urgency is not fully understood or the disaster and risk for the human species is not completely understood yet. ” The Zoonosis Threat” is only one threat.

    The proposal and laws being proposed and passed, barely address the problem or the risk ( Past, Current & Future) involved. Better way would be to provide alternate livelhood means for those involved in such trade of wildelifeor meat factories. Not only does the human species vary nature and contact, with other non-human species, whose ecosystems have adapted to accomodate and live in harmony with numerous viruses, pathogens and bacteria over millions of years , but the very act of consuming the flesh of such creatures with alternate non-human ecosystems — increases the risk of such transmission from other species dramatically – probably increases these risks manifold. I do not think cannibalism is a wise choice either for those wanting to eat flesh.Each human ecosystem and biome is different and the risks are not reduced.

    However well cooked the flesh may be, there is no gurantee that the viruses will not survive and adapt to the temperatures they are subjected to, some viruses may become dormant for a certain period and then like sleeper cells awake and rampage through the human ecosystems.These Viruses are known to survive and even thrive in extreme environments.

    I have carefully studied the structue of C-19. There are numerous features which indicate Non-Zoonoisis creation of the C-19 entity and its rapid mutation in the human-ecosystem and the lack of reduction in the virulence and ability of the mutations to cause the rampageand damage which is being retained even after such mutation. In fact the inffectivity of the Mutants of C-19 appear to have improved its ability to spread even more rapidly.
    Hence, second wave in Europe (Neanderthal Gene greater prevalnace and also the western nations with probably higher Neanderthal Gene component completely gutting the population of communities [regardless of skin colur] where such genes are present) impacting the world and future waves {HOPEFULLY SMALLER} of C-19.

    It takes seven years for the cells in human body to be replaced entirely. Hence, changing and consumption patterns of humans which needs to change is essential.Without this addressing the medium term risks to reduce the root cause of current pandemic as well as future pandemics and reduce the risk quite dramatically will remain impaired. Taking stop gap measures and using band-aid to fix a deep gash without stiches, is not a wise solution in my opinion. Neither has the creature from which the C-19 virus originated nor has the first human who got the same been found yet. Unlikely that we will solve this mystery, regardless of how hard detectives search.

    Humanity needs to wake up to the problem that the threats to humanity survival come from many sources, Zootonic, Domesticated Livestock bred for slaughter and consumption, and Non-Zootonic so Called “Research” carried out inthe labs under the false belief that these cannot lead to man-made disasters. At least move such research labs off-planet if you want to still continue to explore such research. Any Risk manager who understands threats and economics will tell you that in the case of survival of the species 99.99999999999999999999% certainty is inadequate.

    What you Eat is whatyou become.The Cells energy needs and its healthy survival are supplied by food.

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