Today’s post is an extract from a blog on the ECOJUST website.  It’s by Pauline Verheij who posted it in February, before the global impact of COVID-19 became clear.  As such, the opening section’s data are being overtaken repeatedly on a daily basis.  The post makes clear that given the globalised nature of the wildlife trade, this is not just a Chinese problem, with bushmeat consumption prevalent in many parts of Africa and Latin America.  This is a key section of the blog:
“Wildlife consumption is widespread across Southeast Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America as well as (though perhaps to a lesser extent) North America and Europe. The trade and consumption of wild animal meat (bushmeat) in Central Africa is estimated to be over one billion kilograms per year. Bushmeat consumption in the Amazon Basin is estimated to range between 67 and 164 million kilograms annually. Africa and Latin America are seeing a worrying surge in wildlife poaching in response to a sharply increasing demand from urban populations where wild meat consumption has become fashionable. Bushmeat is not only consumed locally and regionally. Europe for example is an important destination: A recent study, involving researchers from the Zoological Society of London, showed that illegal bushmeat is ‘rife in Europe’. The study estimated that as much as 270 tonnes of bushmeat might be coming through a single airport in Paris annually.

Since the 1990s scientists have documented the rising threat of emerging infectious diseases spreading among people and other animals, fuelled by human activities ranging from the bushmeat consumption and the wildlife trade to the destruction of wild habitats.  Scientists have confirmed that the majority of human Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID’s), viruses in particular, are of animal origin.  Furthermore, they have established that EID’s have increased in frequency, with the proportion of those emerging from wild animals increasing substantially over the last four decades of the twentieth century.

Pathogens originating from wild animals include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1 and HIV-2), Ebola haemorrhagic fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Marburg virus, Sin Nombre virus, Nipah, Hendra and Menangle virus, West Nile virus and Borrelia burgdorferi.  The origin of HIV is widely thought to be linked with the consumption of primates. Ebola outbreaks in humans have been traced to infected great apes hunted for food. The SARS coronavirus was associated with the international trade in small carnivores and bats.  The transmission of infectious agents due to wildlife trade is not limited to human pathogens: domestic animals as well as native wildlife are also heavily impacted.  …”

The next section identifies a number of examples of transmission.

As with last week’s blog, this is not an easy read, and the pictures are not the sort you see in glossy magazines or on prime time TV wildlife shows, but the issues could hardly be more serious, and are just the sort of thing that older students ought to be grappling with as they ponder the state of the world.

Pauline Verheij is an independent wildlife crime specialist with nearly 20 years of experience tackling environmental and wildlife crime.  An environmental lawyer by training, Pauline has applied and honed her skills in a variety of positions in the public, private and NGO sector. Organisations she has worked with include the Dutch Police (Serious Environmental Crime Unit); the Dutch public prosecutors’ office (Fraud and Environmental Crime department); TRAFFIC; the Wildlife Justice Commission and IFAW.

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