KUALA LUMPUR: The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has called for the closure of Asias wild bird markets to further reduce the spread of the avian flu.
Director of WCS Malaysia Programme Dr Melvin Gumal said large numbers of wild and domestic birds were kept in close quarters in markets allowing diseases to jump between wild animals, livestock and ultimately humans.
The birds are caged in stressful and unhygienic conditions, which provide the ideal conditions for transmission of disease, he said.
He expressed concern that policies calling for widespread killing of birds living in the wild to prevent disease would do more harm than good.
The New York-based WCS, which operates conservation programmes in more than 15 Asian countries including Malaysia, said trade in wild birds for the pet and songbird trade in Asia was vast.
For example, in Bangkoks weekend market, 70,000 birds representing 276 species from Asia, Australia, Africa and South America were sold over six months alone.
In one market in Java, between half-a-million and 1.5 million wild birds were sold each year.
The WCS also said that killing free-ranging wildlife would not solve the problem, and could have many unforeseen repercussions.
For example, it stated that large-scale killing of sparrows and crows during the Great Leap Forward in China in the late 1950s resulted in failed rice crops and massive famine because the birds had actually been controlling pests.
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