ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interconnectedness of Illegal Wildlife Trade and COVID-19

Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic’s interlinkages with illegal wildlife trade have caught a lot of attention and been touted as a primary cause. Dwelling on the carrier species of coronavirus that have been implicated and the channels of zoonotic spillover, the policies implemented to curb bushmeat consumption with incomplete ramifications to curb illegal wildlife markets are critiqued. The urgent need to address the problem is highlighted, requiring significant enforcement efforts at the local and national level along with transnational cooperation to make them successful. There is a need for alternative coordinated solutions for the COVID-19 vaccine which ironically finds its origin in a wildlife product.

The impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been felt worldwide. The disease first presented itself in December 2019 as a pneumonic manifestation from an unknown origin in Wuhan, Hubei province of China (WHO 2020a). Spiralling from an epidemic into a pandemic, as of 7 December 2020 it has infected 67 million people globally and proved fatal for 1.53 million (John Hopkins Database 2020) with no end in sight as some countries face the second or the third waves of infection. Social distancing measures, quarantining and lockdown continue to be the only public tools available to contain the spread of the disease and to reduce the pressure on healthcare facilities. Even with some allopathic drugs showing promising results as a cure, assuming a “normal life” without a vaccine could take a while.

Predecessors of COVID-19 can be traced back to the Spanish flu (1918–1920), Asian flu (1957–1958), HIV–AIDS (1981–to date), H1N1 swine flu (2009–2010), Ebola (2014–to date), and Zika (2015–to date). One common theme that emerges among pandemics and epidemics is their spread through wild animals. As much as 61% of the total known 1,451 human pathogens are from zoonotic origins (Cunningham 2005). The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) literature is rich with the references of zoonosis from wildlife. Agricultural intensification, climate change, deforestation, hunting, wildlife trade, urbanisation, and global travels often drive repeated spillovers of zoonotic pathogens to humans (Daszak et al 2001). The consumption of infected animals as part of traditional hunting practices (Leroy et al 2004), for food and for medicinal value, has been associated with the emergence of zoonosis.

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Updated On : 24th Dec, 2020

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