EDITORIAL - Wildlife in the pandemic

EDITORIAL - Wildlife in the pandemic

(The Philippine Star) - March 4, 2021 - 12:00am

World Wildlife Day was marked yesterday as the global community continued to grapple with a deadly, economically crippling pandemic.

An upside of the COVID-19 pestilence is greater awareness of wildlife conservation. The coronavirus is believed to have emanated from a market in China’s Wuhan City where various species of wildlife were sold for food, traditional medicine and other purposes. Scientists believe bats are the most likely source of the coronavirus, with pangolins also being eyed as transmitters of the pathogen.

In 2003, the virus that caused the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was also traced to civets sold at food markets in China’s Guangdong province. While Beijing cracked down on the wildlife trade after the SARS epidemic, the emergence of COVID in late 2019 clearly showed that more needed to be done.

Apart from killer diseases traced to animals, the world continues to confront the many problems that are endangering both plant and animal wildlife. This year the theme of World Wildlife Day on March 3 is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” The focus is on the estimated 200 million to 350 million people living within or near forested areas worldwide, and who rely on forest resources for their livelihoods and basic needs including food, shelter, energy and medicine.

Special focus is also on the indigenous peoples who manage an estimated 28 percent of the planet’s land surface. These areas, many of them forested, are now threatened by climate change, biodiversity loss and the social, economic and public health impacts of COVID-19. Preserving the environment also means preserving indigenous cultures.

Illegal trafficking in wildlife also continues to drive many species to endangered status and even extinction. The coronavirus pandemic, believed to have sprung from this illegal trade, should spur greater action to protect wild flora and fauna.

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