The Wildlife Alliance and the Ministry of Environment are calling on people to stop eating bushmeat, as it could be connected to the spread of COVID-19.
According to its press release yesterday, findings from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 fact-finding team in Wuhan point away from a laboratory leak causing the pandemic and towards a small list of possibilities with one thing in common – animal supply chains.
In Cambodia, there is an increasing demand for wildlife products, including pangolin, civet and bat meat. These species are associated with the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. People who eat them are putting their lives on the line with every mouthful, Wildlife Alliance CEO Suwanna Gauntlett said.
“Consumers are taking a risk with their health every time they eat wildlife,” she said.
The Wildlife Alliance combats the illegal wildlife trade, which safeguards public health. “By fighting the illegal wildlife trade we’re fighting the chances of further new pandemics developing,” Gauntlett added.
She urged everyone in Cambodia to “play a role by not only stopping eating wildlife but reporting any wildlife crimes to the hotline 012 500 094”.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said yesterday that Cambodia is actively encouraging people do not eat wild animals as it can affect people’s health.
“Even though the science is not yet clear about the source of COVID-19, or exactly which animals carry a risk of COVID-19, Cambodia also promotes not eating wild animals to prevent the illegal animal trade,” he said.
EndPandemics is a global alliance and action campaign that strives to reduce the risks of pandemics by addressing the root causes of zoonotic outbreaks – commercial wildlife trade, disruption of wild habitats and wildlife dependence of poverty-affected livelihoods.
The alliance was launched in April 2020 and comprises a fast-growing array of organisations (presently over 70) that operate across five continents in conservation, agriculture, climate, health, business, technology, security, media and other sectors.
Since it began, EndPandemics has been running a media campaign, including educational spots on international TV, webinars, and media stories.
In November 2020, the WC20 summit of leading conservation organisations, including three EndPandemics members, called upon G20 leaders to “deliver solutions on the ground, while monitoring and evaluating their impact”, thereby validating the EndPandemics engagement model: identify, sharpen and replicate solutions that impact frontline actions, public policies, business practices and consumer behaviours.
Scientists from the WHO team said it was too early to determine which animal the virus jumped from, but reaffirmed that COVID-19 is zoonotic, meaning it did at some point jump from an animal to a person. The team pointed to the need for further investigations into supply chains coming from wildlife farms across Southeast Asia. These include seafood supply chains, the release said.
Further investigations into the exact origin of COVID-19 are important and will take time. Meanwhile, the more than 70 organisations of the cross-sectoral EndPandemics alliance are remind ing governments and the public to expand their focus from vaccines to prevent the next pandemic by addressing the root causes of zoonotic outbreaks, it said.