With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to sweep the globe and the World Health Organisation saying 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, campaigners against wildlife crime say Thailand could become a global leader in helping to prevent pandemics by cracking down on poaching and ceasing to be a gateway for illegal wildlife trade. Activists believe this could help stop animal-to-human disease transmission, saying data show that the majority of emerging diseases usually originate from wet markets – where wild animals are caged and sold for food.
At a press conference yesterday to launch the global campaign “Endpandemics”, Steven Galster, the founder of nonprofit group Freeland, which campaigns against animal and human trafficking, called on the government to take more aggressive actions to ban the wild animal commercial trade. Freeland started “Endpandemics” in April when the Covid-19 pandemic exploded globally.
Galster says the nation could return to its top place in the regional fight against the illegal wildlife trade under the framework of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network. He called Thailand’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak “exemplary, resulting in some of the lowest numbers of cases and deaths in the world.”
But, he says, Thailand has left a door open for a new viral bomb to explode on its own doorstep; the illegal wildlife trade. He says there needs to be strong efforts from all stakeholders, especially law enforcement, to ban it entirely.
He believes Thailand should close its gates to wildlife traders and lead other countries by example to follow the WHO “One Health” approach that involves protecting not only people but wild animals and ecosystems.
“A new vaccine will not work against a new outbreak strain. A true, sustainable vaccine will address the root causes of these outbreaks but there needs to be a new approach not only for the protection of people but of wildlife and natural ecosystems as well. Thailand can be that global leader by becoming the first country in the world to ban all commercial trade in wild animals. “
Despite its efforts to control wildlife crime, Thailand is widely known as a regional hub for wildlife crime due to its geographic location and transport system linking it to neighboring countries. Tonnes of African ivory, rhino horn, pangolins, and their scales, snakes, tiger cubs, and all manner of wildlife and wildlife products are confiscated at Thai airports annually. The final destination of these items is usually China.
Many anti-wildlife trafficking experts say the Covid-19 pandemic has helped stop the illegal wildlife trade; China has closed its wildlife markets and banned the trade, with some exceptions.
But the order to close the markets will likely be eased as the outbreak fades.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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