Cracking down on wildlife trade critical to fighting new epidemics – CGTN

Kusum Tewari

During the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, China is planning to take some long-term preventive measures. One of the most significant moves is to crack down wildlife trade, guaranteeing public health by the rule of law.

The Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS) outbreak about 17 years ago also resulted from consuming wild animals. 

Research conducted on SARS-CoV-2, which was responsible for the outbreak, found that the virus originated from bats, the National Health Commission (NHC) said. 

With the COVID-19 outbreak being the second epidemic to emerge from the consumption of wild animals, Chinese officials plan to revise the Wild Animal Conservation Law of China this year.

Currently, only state-protected animals are prohibited from being eaten under Chinese law. Other animals like the civet cat that could carry multiple deadly viruses are not on the list. Wildlife trade also involves many artificially bred animals under state protection.

According to an analysis from the Shanshui Conservation Center, more than 1,000 wildlife species are yet to be included on the List of Wild Animals under State Priority Conservation, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the recorded animal species in China.

The civet cat, which was confirmed as an intermediate host for the SARS virus, and dozens of other wild animals are on the commercial exploitation and artificial breeding white list.

However, intermediate hosts often play important roles in the chain of virus transmission.

A healthy and balanced ecosystem is only possible when species coexist with each other. Unprotected animals make up a large part of the entire ecosystem, and they deserve more protection than people know.

Strict laws must be adopted to prevent potential risk. Trade and consumption of wild animals must be prohibited for good, not only during outbreaks.

Under ideal conditions, we may be able to end the next war against a virus even before it starts.

(Cover: Asian small-clawed otters, a second-class state-protected animal in China. Its population is decreasing. /VCG Photo)

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