Born Free calls for campaign for closure of global wildlife markets

Born Free calls for campaign for closure of global wildlife markets as Coronavirus death toll rises

7/4/20 - With cases of Coronavirus now exceeding a million across more than 200 countries, with devastating impacts on human life and the global economy, international wildlife charity Born Free is once again calling on the World Health Organisation (WHO) use its influence to close down wildlife markets and curb the trade in wild animals.

In a letter coordinated by Born Free and its Lion Coalition partner organisations, and supported by another 200+ wildlife protection groups from across the world, Born Free is calling on the WHO to do all it can to prevent the possibility of future pandemics emerging from the wildlife trade.

Previous global epidemics, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and HIV, have also been associated with the trade in wild animals. SARS, which in 2002-2003 resulted in more than 8,000 human cases across 17 countries, and almost 800 deaths, is a closely related coronavirus to COVID-19, and was also reported to have spread to humans via wild mammals commonly traded live in Chinese markets. Scientists warned of future epidemics if action wasn’t taken[1], but the lessons of SARS went unheeded.

The letter urges the WHO to:
· Recommend to governments worldwide that they institute a permanent ban on live wildlife markets, drawing an unequivocal link between these markets and their proven threats to human health.

· Recommend to governments that they address the potential risks to human health from the trade in wildlife - including collection from the wild, ranching, farming, transport, and trade through physical or online markets for any purpose – and act to close down or limit such trade in order to mitigate those risks.

· Unequivocally exclude the use of wildlife, including from captive bred specimens, in the WHO’s definition and endorsement of Traditional Medicine and revise WHO’s 2014-2023 Traditional Medicine Strategy accordingly to reflect this change.

· Assist governments and lead a coordinated response among the World Trade Organisation, OIE and other multilateral organisations worldwide in awareness-raising activities to clearly inform of the risks of wildlife trade to public health, social cohesion, economic stability, law and order, and individual health.

· Support and encourage initiatives that deliver alternative sources of protein to subsistence consumers of wild animals, in order to further reduce the risk to human health.

Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free, said: “Markets selling live wild animals are found in many countries. However, rapidly growing human populations, increased access to even the most remote wildlife areas through changes in land use and infrastructure development, greater disposable income, increasing urbanisation, and the changing nature of demand, has resulted in the rapid expansion and commercialisation of such markets, increasing the risks to human and animal health.

“The trade in wild animals to supply restaurants, tourist facilities, the vast and expanding international demand for exotic pets, the traditional medicines trade, and to satisfy many other demands, is also a major contributor to the global decline in wildlife and biodiversity, and has severe negative consequences for the welfare of many millions of individual animals. We need to dig deep and reset our fundamental relationship with the natural world, rethink our place in it, and treat our planet and all its inhabitants with a great deal more respect, for its sake and for ours. Once COVID-19 is hopefully behind us, returning to business as usual cannot be an option.”

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