VIDEO: What must the world do now to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic?
WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer and Dr. Aili Kang and Dr. Russell Mittermeier of Global Wildlife Conservation spoke to reporters this morning about the crisis.
April 2, 2020
Update from WCS Congo
April 2, 2020
Voice of America: COVID-19 Infections Approach 900,000
WCS's Paul Elkan speaks about the world's most trafficked animal. "One hears about ivory being stored in containers and moved in large quantities," says Elkan. "But over the years we've found tons of pangolin scales being stockpiled and attempted to be trafficked."
What must the world do now to prevent next zoonotic pandemic?
At a tele news conference this morning, experts from WCS and Global Wildlife Conservation answered this question. You can get the highlights on our WCS Newsroom Twitter feed.
April 1, 2020
WCS's Bronx Zoo serving as staging ground
April 1, 2020
LiveScience: The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to a new word: zoonoses
"Spillover" events, when diseases jump from wild animal hosts to human populations, are a significant and growing threat to global health, global economies, and global security, writes WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer. Analyses of their trends suggest that their frequency and economic impact are on the rise.
Euractiv: The ‘super year for biodiversity’ undermined by a wildlife market?
Conservationists have been working for many years to try and get European Union leaders and policy-makers to pay attention and take action to tackle the biodiversity crisis, writes WCS's Janice Weatherley-Singh. This year felt as if it might be the year, but this new political action on biodiversity is now being curtailed by COVID-19.
STATEMENT: WCS issues policy on reducing risk of future zoonotic pandemics
To prevent future major viral outbreaks such as the COVID-19 outbreak, impacting human health, well-being, economies, and security on a global scale, WCS recommends stopping all commercial trade in wildlife for human consumption (particularly of birds and mammals) and closing all such markets.
U.S. News: New York City’s new normal as it weathers a pandemic
"Many of our activities of course have slowed down in the field around the globe," WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer tells the magazine. But "I've probably never had as much work as I've had now," particularly as he examines the impact of coronavirus worldwide.
Sierra: China could end the global trade in wildlife
“What China is doing is very, very encouraging, in that they’re potentially taking a lead globally on policy to prevent future outbreaks,” says Scott Roberton, director of counter-wildlife trafficking for WCS’s Asia program. “This isn’t about conservation; it’s about public health.”
Food & Environment Reporting Network: Can Asia’s Infectious Disease-Producing Wildlife Trade Be Stopped?
"It’s a numbers game,” says WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer of wild animal markets. "You’re providing a lot of opportunities for human-animal interface, with a high diversity of species with unknown viruses mixing with each other.”
"Chinese people don’t want to touch any wild animal food at the moment," adds Dr. Aili Kang, "so the traders have no market."
"Some 60% of emerging infectious diseases that are reported globally are zoonoses," report WCS's Amanda Fine and Aili Kang, "and of the more than 30 new human pathogens detected in the last three decades, 75% have originated in animals."
"The Wildlife Conservation Society is dedicated to carrying on with our important work—thanks to your steadfast support," says WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper. "Our community is strong, and we will get through this together."
Guessing we could all use a bit of zen right now. We posted a video of gentoo penguins returning to shore along the coast of South America. Post your own with #WildlifeZen and help us spread some good cheer.
March 16, 2020
Emerging Zoonoses and the Risk Posed by Wildlife Markets
"Facing such a vast, unknown and unpredictable universe of zoonotic agents," write WCS's Amanda Fine and Aili Kang on Medium, "we firmly believe that limiting the chances of contact between human and wild animals is the most effective way to reduce the risk of emergence of new zoonotic diseases."
Temporary Closure of WCS's Four Zoos and Aquarium in New York City Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020
The Wildlife Conservation Society is temporarily closing the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, effective Monday, March 16. Our five parks will be closed and education and public programs will be cancelled until further notice.
This action is being taken as city and state leaders have called on businesses to voluntarily close to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19; and following declarations of states of emergency in the United States, New York State, and New York City.
Mongabay: Conservationists Set Record Straight on COVID-19's Wildlife Links
“It’s just a numbers game,” WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer said of markets that trade in wildlife. “If you just put enough species together and allow them to share viruses and then put a lot of people in contact with the animals and their parts, then you just invariably will have a virus that can enter a human cell and replicate and, in rarer occasions, transmit from human to human.”
STATEMENT: Viet Nam prime minister proposes a ban on trade and consumption of wildlife
“We commend Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for his leadership in taking this important first step. We hope this directive will stipulate the required actions to remove high-risk interfaces along the wildlife trade supply chain where viruses can emerge by putting in place measures to prohibit the trade, consumption, breeding and keeping of wild animals whether wild caught or captive bred in Viet Nam.”
“We strongly support Viet Nam in taking all necessary steps to prevent future zoonotic pathogen transmissions that could lead to future outbreaks similar to COVID-19 harming livelihoods and economies around the world.”
On Twitter, we addressed some of the major wildlife-related myths out there about COVID-19.
March 2, 2020
Reminder of The Berlin Principles – A One Health approach — Issued on Oct. 22, 2019
As the world focuses on the zoonotic COVID-19 outbreak, we are bringing focus back to the Oct. 22, 2019, release of The Berlin Principles, which are an urgent call to governments, academia, and civil society that all sectors need to break down barriers to ensure a united effort to prevent the emergence or resurgence of diseases that threaten humans, wildlife, and livestock.
The Berlin Principles were developed and issued at the "One Planet, One Health, One Future" conference organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the German Federal Foreign Office. The conference included the top minds from around the globe addressing how human development and interference on nature are generating threats affecting all life on Earth.
“But there is a huge trade in wildlife that is not related to consumption.”
February 26, 2020
STATEMENT: A critical and positive step but other forms of trade should be added
“WCS welcomes this critical and positive step that reflects the Chinese central government’s commitment for not only solving the COVID-19 outbreak but in preventing future risks through legislative reform and improved enforcement and management.
“There is no such risk-free trade and consumption of any wild mammals and birds whether they are wild-caught or farmed. WCS believes that only by prohibiting the live trade in all wild birds and mammals can the risk of future viral emergences be prevented, and thus other forms of trade should also be included in this ban.
“In addition, this creates a potential loophole for traffickers who may exploit the non-food exemptions to sell or trade live wildlife, creating additional challenges to law enforcement officers.”
STATEMENT: WCS applauds China for revising and strengthening wildlife protection laws
“Preventing future zoonotic outbreaks is not about targeting one species—like pangolins, bats and snakes—but taking strong actions to ban wet markets trading in wildlife and broadly strengthening wildlife laws and regulations," said WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer. "We applaud The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China for declaring on Monday that it is revising wildlife protection laws, in order to strengthen the fight to end indiscriminate hunting and consumption of wild animals."
What is the Wildlife Conservation Society's main message concerning the COVID-19 coronavirus?
As Dr. Walzer states in the video above, WCS is asking China and others governments to close live animal markets that trade in wild animals—whether these animals come from the wild or whether they are farmed-wildlife. There are three clear steps we are advocating for to prevent the spread of similar zoonotic diseases: close live animal markets that sell wildlife; strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals within countries and across borders; and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviors, especially in cities.
Won’t closing these markets hurt the poor?
No. Wildlife populations are being depleted as they are poached and hunted. Viral outbreaks lead to mass culling of domestic animals, which increases the cost of basic animal protein, hitting the poor the hardest.
Why do we suspect the COVID-19 coronavirus is a spill-over from animals to humans?
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control have confirmed a live animal market teeming with a multitude of wildlife species as the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, director of the China State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, who became famous for leading the fight against SARS 17 years ago, pinpointed on Chinese state television the likely source of the new coronavirus as wildlife. Environmental samples from the Wuhan market have been linked to wildlife.
Why are these live animal markets that sell animals for food such a problem?
It is hard to design more perfect conditions for new viruses to emerge than market systems such as that in Wuhan: Tightly pack together a variety of species from around the country or the world and transport them long distances directly into large markets. Ensure that these massively stressed and immuno-compromised wild animals are in close proximity to domestic and farmed animals. Then distribute these animals out to major urban populations for consumption.
What action has the Chinese government taken about these markets with this outbreak?
The Chinese government is to be applauded for acting quickly, as three government agencies took the first step, announcing a nationwide ban prohibiting all wild animal trading activities with immediate effect. This includes not only wet markets, but supermarkets restaurants and e-commerce platforms. The announcement also stated that “any violation of the provisions of this announcement shall be investigated and dealt with severely in accordance with the law and regulations”. However, this is not enough, as the ban currently only covers the period until “the epidemic situation is lifted nationwide”. It must be permanent.
Is it a common occurrence for viruses to be transmitted from animals to humans?
The resulting re-assortment and exchange of viral components between species at live animal markets is a major source of new viruses. These can be zoonotic, i.e., transmitted from animals to humans (e.g., Avian Influenza, SARS, MERS), and subsequently successfully mutate so that they can transmit between humans, creating the conditions for a rapid global pandemic.
Are there markets like this outside of China?
Similar markets occur in cities across other Asian countries and if these persist, and human consumption of wildlife goes on, then we will continue to face heightened risks from emerging new viruses, potentially more lethal.
What do the people in China and Chinese media think about closing these markets?
A large and growing number of people in China support closing these markets. On Chinese social media, support for the issue has been among the highest trending topics on Weibo (China’s most popular microblog site) over the last week, with the hashtag “#The Source of the New Coronavirus is Wild Animals” viewed 1.2 billion times. The hashtag "#National Wildlife Trading Is Banned Until the Epidemic is Over” has amassed 400 million views over 24 hours since it was announced, and the view of Chinese netizens is clear: “It should be permanently banned. Do you want to have another epidemic?,” “Reject wild meat, ban forever and punish offenders severely,” “It is for the sake of human life, health, safety, and maintenance of natural harmony that wildlife trading activities should be permanently banned from now on.”
Not only that. State media and academics agree. The China Daily recently headlined, “It’s Time to Permanently Ban Wildlife Trade” and Sina News, “It’s Time to Ban Wild Animal Trading.” While a group of senior Chinese academics, including the former president of Peking University and Dr. Shi Zhengli of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academic of Science (who is one of the scientists who identified bats as the original carrier of SARs), have publicly called on China’s National People’s Congress to end the illegal trade and consumption of wild animals by issuing emergency legislation integrating public health and safety concerns into the wildlife protection law.
Where can I read more about the spill-over from animals to humans in connection to the COVID-19 coronavirus?
STATEMENT: Chinese ban on wildlife markets needs to be permanent
“The Chinese government’s announcement today to temporarily ban the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants and over e-commerce needs to be permanent," said WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer. "We congratulate the government for taking this important first step."
“The banning of such sales will help end the possibility of future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, such as the COVID-19 coronavirus. We learned this lesson with the outbreak of another zoonotic disease, SARS, in 2002. The pattern will keep repeating itself until we ban, not only in China, but in other countries, the sale of wildlife, specifically for food and in food markets."
The Guardian: Calls for global ban on wild animal markets
Wild animal markets must be banned worldwide, say experts in and outside China, warning that the sale of sometimes endangered species for human consumption is the cause both of the new coronavirus outbreak and other past epidemics.
The Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, which has been closed down as the source of the infection, had a wild animal section, where live and slaughtered species were on sale. An inventory list at the Da Zhong domestic and wild animals shop inside the market includes live wolf pups, golden cicadas, scorpions, bamboo rats, squirrels, foxes, civets, hedgehogs (probably porcupines), salamanders, turtles and crocodiles. In addition, it offered assorted parts of some animals, such as crocodile tail, belly, tongue and intestines.
January 22, 2020
STATEMENT: Close live animal markets that trade in wildlife
“Governments must recognize the global public health threats of zoonotic diseases," said WCS's Dr. Christian Walzer. "It is time to close live animal markets that trade in wildlife, strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals, and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviors, especially in cities. It is essential to invest resources not only into discovering new viruses but more importantly in determining the epidemiological drivers of zoonotic spillover, amplification, and spread of infectious diseases."