The United Nations’ biodiversity chief has called for a global ban on wildlife markets – such as the one in Wuhan, China, believed to be the starting point of the coronavirus outbreak – to prevent future pandemics.
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said countries should move to prevent future pandemics by banning “wet markets” that sell live and dead animals for human consumption, but cautioned against unintended consequences.
China has issued a temporary ban on wildlife markets where animals such as civets, live wolf pups and pangolins are kept alive in small cages while on sale, often in filthy conditions where they incubate diseases that can then spill into human populations. Many scientists have urged Beijing to make the ban permanent.
Using the examples of Ebola in west-central Africa and the Nipah virus in east Asia, Mrema said there were clear links between the destruction of nature and new human illnesses, but cautioned against a reactionary approach to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“The message we are getting is if we don’t take care of nature, it will take care of us,” she told the Guardian.
“It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done and some countries. But we should also remember you have communities, particularly from low-income rural areas, particularly in Africa, which are dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people.
“So unless we get alternatives for these communities, there might be a danger of opening up illegal trade in wild animals which currently is already leading us to the brink of extinction for some species.
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