WWF Calls For Closure of Wildlife Markets to Prevent Future Disease Outbreaks | WWF Hong Kong

WWF Calls For Closure of Wildlife Markets to Prevent Future Disease Outbreaks

Posted
07 April 2020


7 April, Hong Kong – This World Health Day, as the world grapples with the worst public health emergency in recent memory, WWF urges government to take immediate actions to end the wildlife trade, sales and markets and farms, as this is the prime source of future disease outbreaks.
 
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the relationship between zoonotic diseases - those transmitted from animals to humans - and the wildlife trade into sharp focus. A WWF survey in March, carried out with 1,000 participants from Hong Kong showed that 78% of Hong Kong people are extremely or very worried about the COVID-19 and 94% of Hong Kong people support the closure of wildlife markets. 
 
China has now taken action to avert future disease outbreaks with the ban on the sale of wildlife and the closure of disease-source wildlife markets in China. This action will go a long way to reducing the risk of new infectious diseases, like COVID-19, from jumping from wildlife to humans in the post-coronavirus future. However, given how far and fast people and trade move throughout the region today,the reduced risk gained from China’s wise response will only be well-secured if Hong Kong, Macau, and nations in neighbouring Southeast Asia follow China’s lead to end the sale of wildlife and close high-risk markets within and along their borders. All governments need to act fast in this regard to ensure an effective deterrent to more catastrophic disease outbreaks. 
 
The sale of kinds of wildlife known to host diseases that can jump to humans should be ended, especially in markets where animals and people interact in close quarters. These places include many exotic pet trade markets in Hong Kong that have little to no regulation and monitoring. Illegal physical and online sales of pangolins, civets, racoon dogs, wild cats, and other high-risk wildlife must also be soughtout and ended by the authorities. According to a recent study in Nature, the similarity of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus with that of SARSCoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, strengthens evidence that selling pangolins for meat could further imperil humanity. 
 
“Wet markets and their associated trade networks are known to provide opportunity for contact of humans with new pathogens, particularly if they are trading in wild animals. For this reason we need to urgently reduce and, ideally, end this trade. It is important to realise that an effective and long-term sustainable reduction in wild animal trade will not be achieved without more effectively reducing the demand for these wild animals and their products.” warns Dirk U. Pfeiffer, Chair Professor of One Health at City University. 
 
The wildlife trade is the second largest direct threat to biodiversity globally, after habitat destruction. Hong Kong must stop being one of the world’s major transport hubs for the wildlife trade, whether legal or illegal. Deadly viruses make no distinction between the legal or illegal wildlife trade, taken from the wild or captive-bred, or farmed so the ban must be total to be effective. High-risk wildlife includes pangolin, civet cat, racoon dogs, wild cats, monkeys, loris, tarsier, wild birds, rodents, snakes, tortoises, and bats. Currently, the legal trade in live wildlife, including captive breeding and farming, typically suffers from poor regulation, lack of hygiene, and animal welfare practices creating conditions favorable for disease mutation and transmission. Ending sales of wildlife will also help Hong Kong better meet its obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and, importantly, reduce its inordinately high contribution to the dramatic loss of species in the wild around the world. The Hong Kong government should also include wildlife crime offences under Schedule 1 of Cap. 455 Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) to further deter transnational criminal enterprises that use Hong Kong as a major port and transport hub for wildlife smuggling. 
 
“We must act now and with one voice so that governments throughout the region, and indeed across the world put public health and economic and livelihood interests of our larger society ahead of the misguided and frankly dangerous trade in wildlife. Stopping the trade is a global responsibility. Hong Kong does not need to be an accessory to the next deadly pandemic.” said Jovy Chan, Manager of Wildlife Conservation, WWF-Hong Kong.
 
Read Full Report of ‘WWF Opinion Survey on COVID-19 And Wildlife Trade in 5 Asian Markets’ : https://bit.ly/2whdbH7