We are amidst a pandemic and consequent global economic crisis that show just how vulnerable we have made ourselves by ignoring how we interact with wildlife and the natural world.
Despite the risks inherent in wildlife trade, markets and consumption habits, current wildlife laws do not take account of public or animal health issues, those that exist are not adequately enforced and we do not have a global agreement on wildlife crime.
Clearly, to avoid future zoonotic disease, protect our wildlife, people and our economies, we need systemic change and that must include amending and enforcing global wildlife laws.
In a briefing paper released today, End Wildlife Crime (EWC), a global initiative to promote such changes, proposes specific amendments to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to include public health and animal health criteria into the Convention’s decision-making processes.
New regulations on the trade in wildlife, including possible new trade bans on health grounds and bans on certain high-risk markets and consumption, will require a scaled up, cooperative global enforcement effort.
“No organisation on its own can address the multiple threats that could lead to the emergence of new wildlife-related diseases, or the spread of older diseases, with potential catastrophic consequences for economies, people and wildlife,” said EWC chair, John E Scanlon AO. “We must take a collaborative global approach to wildlife trade, one that brings together animal, human and environmental health – a “One Health” approach.”
Scientific research indicates that COVID-19 was most likely transmitted to humans from its reservoir host, a horseshoe bat, via another intermediate host species, possibly a pangolin. We know that past pandemics have been caused by wildlife-related zoonotic diseases and the conditions that make spillover from animals to humans more likely.
The suggested CITES amendments are one approach, another promoted by EWC is advocating for the adoption of a fourth Protocol on wildlife crime under the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
CITES currently regulates international trade in live wildlife and wildlife products to ensure that trade is legal and sustainable. EWC proposes new legally binding provisions, including a new Appendix, or list of species, to regulate wildlife trade that poses a threat to public health or animal health.
These provisions will only allow trade after certain findings are made, including that the proposed trade is reviewed by public and animal health authorities and is found to not pose a significant risk to human or animal health. Proposed trade that does not meet these requirements will be prohibited.
It is time to re-examine our relationship with nature, protect wildlife habitats and stop the illegal trade in endangered species.
About End Wildlife Crime: Hosted by ADM Capital Foundation, chaired by Scanlon, and with a Steering Group comprising the Born Free Foundation, the Food and Land Use Coalition (represented by SYSTEMIQ), the Global Environmental Institute and the ICCF Group, EWC represents environmental, policy, business and public health interests. The initiative also includes Special Advisors on private sector engagement, partnerships and CITES, as well as a technical support group that includes international lawyers and criminologists.