Permanent ban must be imposed on wildlife trade

WHILE the recent temporary ban by China on the hunting, sale, transport and export of all wild animals in response to Covid-19 is welcomed, a more lasting solution is needed to prevent a repeat of disease outbreaks not only in China but in all countries as well.

This requires a permanent ban on the trade, sale and consumption of wildlife, stricter enforcement of the related laws and regulations, and prosecution of those involved in such illegal activities, especially the consumption of wild animals.

It is tragic indeed that lessons were not learnt from the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was traced to consumption of wild animals in Guangdong, China.

During the SARS outbreak in China, there was a crackdown on wildlife trafficking. However, trade resumed again about six months after the outbreak was contained in mid-2003.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia fears that once the Covid-19 outbreak is contained, countries will again relax their vigilance and the trade and sale of wild animals, including endangered species, would resume.

The origin of the most recent coronavirus has been traced to one or more live animal markets in Wuhan city, China, where highly-stressed animals, both wild and domestic, are normally huddled in cages and tanks awaiting slaughter.

Experts believe that capture, transport, trade and slaughter of wild animals are all contributors to serious health problems, as evident from the recent health scares.

Animals sold in these markets are often left to fester in their own waste, which means they could develop diseases that can be passed on to humans.

Photographs of these markets often show customers, sometimes with children, browsing among animals – some living, others freshly killed – in garishly lit, blood-soaked stalls.

From pangolins, badgers, snakes, salamanders, scorpions, hedgehogs and wolf puppies to ferret badgers, raccoon dogs and civets, there is a long tradition of consuming wild animal species.

What should be blamed are wildlife markets, restaurants and gluttonous individuals, not bats or other wildlife species.

The relentless demand for exotic delicacies and ingredients for traditional medicine is hastening the extinction of many wildlife species in addition to posing a perennial health threat that Chinese authorities have failed to fully address.

Strong action must be taken to ban the trade of wildlife in wet markets permanently. In fact, wildlife experts have stressed that this will need to be global and not just in China. A permanent ban would not only save human lives but also contribute to the recovery of wildlife populations worldwide.

MEENAKSHI RAMAN , President Sahabat Alam Malaysia

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