WWF Asia-Pacific offices applaud the decision taken by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, to ban the eating of wild animals and end unregulated wildlife trade. WWF offices in the region call on the countries of East and Southeast Asia to follow suit to safeguard people’s lives and health.
The current emergence and spread of COVID-19, as well as SARS, MERS and other similar viral outbreaks in recent history, have highlighted the threat posed by the eating of wild meat and the wildlife trade to human health. However, as the current viral epidemic has also shown, action in one country is not enough.
“Southeast Asian countries must learn from China’s example and ban the sale of wild meat for the health of their citizens and to prevent damage to their economies, as is happening currently because COVID-19,” said Christy Williams, WWF International’s regional director, Asia-Pacific. “This means that they must stop the trade from moving into their territories. As we saw in the case of the domestic ivory ban in China, the trade will just move across borders where enforcement is less robust, creating new trade hotspots.”
The chief executive officers (CEOs) of WWF’s Asia-Pacific offices call on governments in East and Southeast Asia to follow the example set by China and impose their own permanent bans on consuming and trading in wildlife. The national, regional and global cost of COVID-19 is running into billions of dollars and the economic impact will be felt for years to come. Action must be taken now before the next epidemic emerges, causing more human suffering and death.
Southeast Asia has long been a source for wildlife products, as well as a transit hub for wildlife products on their way to China. Wild meat consumption – which can result in dangerous pathogens for which humans have no immunity being transmitted from animals to people – is also very common in the region, as it is in China. In order to address this public health issue, namely the consumption and transit of wild animals, we call on the relevant ministries responsible for wildlife protection and public health to combine their capacity and resources to increase market inspections, reach out to the public and stop the sale and consumption of wild meat and other wildlife products.
“During past epidemics that originated in wildlife markets, containment of infected individuals has been the primary approach,” said Ron (Ryuji) Tsutsui, CEO of WWF Japan and chairperson of Asia-Pacific Growth Strategy, WWF CEO’s group in Asia Pacific. “China’s decision to deal with the source of the problem – permanently closing markets and banning the eating of wild meat – is a game changer. All Asian governments need to follow this example in the interest of human health, as well as the conservation of wildlife.”
Ron Tsutsui, CEO,WWF Japan, chairperson Asia-Pacific