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In order to prevent future global pandemics, an international research team is calling on governments across the world to affect legislation that will address the wildlife trade, habitat protection, and reduced interaction between people, wildlife, and livestock. The team’s work was published recently in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
“Zoonosis” is the term used to describe when a virus jumps from an animal to humans. Examples of these include SARS, AIDS, and the Ebola virus. COVID-19 is another example of a zoonosis and has been responsible for the deaths of 1.4 million people worldwide. The authors of the study believe further action is taken to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.
“The coronavirus pandemic has inevitably focused our energy on managing the disease. But in order to prevent the next outbreak ― whatever form that might take ― there needs to be the recognition that people’s relationship with the natural world must change,” explained co-author Dr. Trishna Dutta from the University of Göttingen.
The study states that most human pathogens over the last 30 years have originated in wildlife. It notes that the wildlife market is particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease due to the cramped and unsanitary conditions animals are often kept in. Another key factor in zoonosis viruses is the fragmentation of habitat which leads to increased interaction between humans and wildlife.
“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,” Dutta continued.
The study advises against immediate and blanket bans on the wildlife market, however. The authors fear such actions could disproportionately impact disadvantaged, migrant, or rural populations. Instead, they are asking for governments to work with local populations to develop alternative means of subsistence before such action is taken.
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