Beyond banning wildlife trade: COVID-19, conservation and development.
ABSTRACT: One of the immediate responses to COVID-19 has been a call to ban wildlife trade given the suspected origin of the pandemic in a Chinese market selling and butchering wild animals. There is clearly an urgent need to tackle wildlife trade that is illegal, unsustainable or carries major risks to human health, biodiversity conservation or meeting acceptable animal welfare standards. However, some of the suggested actions in these calls go far beyond tackling these risks and have the potential to undermine human rights, damage conservation incentives and harm sustainable development. There are a number of reasons for this concerns. First calls for bans on wildlife markets often include calls for bans on wet markets, but the two are not the same thing, and wet markets can be a critical underpinning of informal food systems. Second, wildlife trade generates essential resources for the world's most vulnerable people, contributing to food security for millions of people, particularly in developing countries. Third, wildlife trade bans have conservation risks including driving trade underground, making it even harder to regulate, and encouraging further livestock production. Fourth, in many cases, sustainable wildlife trade can provide key incentives for local people to actively protect species and the habitat they depend on, leading to population recoveries. Most importantly, a singular focus on wildlife trade overlooks the key driver of the emergence of infectious diseases: habitat destruction, largely driven by agricultural expansion and deforestation, and industrial livestock production. We suggest that the COVID-19 crisis provides a unique opportunity for a paradigm shift both in our global food system and also in our approach to conservation. We make specific suggestions as to what this entails, but the overriding principle is that local people must be at the heart of such policy shifts.
Project description:Although the majority of emerging infectious diseases can be linked to wildlife sources, most pathogen spillover events to people could likely be avoided if transmission was better understood and practices adjusted to mitigate risk. Wildlife trade can facilitate zoonotic disease transmission and represents a threat to human health and economies in Asia, highlighted by the 2003 SARS coronavirus outbreak, where a Chinese wildlife market facilitated pathogen transmission. Additionally, wildlife trade poses a serious threat to biodiversity. Therefore, the combined impacts of Asian wildlife trade, sometimes termed bush meat trade, on public health and biodiversity need assessing. From 2010 to 2013, observational data were collected in Lao PDR from markets selling wildlife, including information on volume, form, species and price of wildlife; market biosafety and visitor origin. The potential for traded wildlife to host zoonotic diseases that pose a serious threat to human health was then evaluated at seven markets identified as having high volumes of trade. At the seven markets, during 21 observational surveys, 1,937 alive or fresh dead mammals (approximately 1,009 kg) were observed for sale, including mammals from 12 taxonomic families previously documented to be capable of hosting 36 zoonotic pathogens. In these seven markets, the combination of high wildlife volumes, high risk taxa for zoonoses and poor biosafety increases the potential for pathogen presence and transmission. To examine the potential conservation impact of trade in markets, we assessed the status of 33,752 animals observed during 375 visits to 93 markets, under the Lao PDR Wildlife and Aquatic Law. We observed 6,452 animals listed by Lao PDR as near extinct or threatened with extinction. The combined risks of wildlife trade in Lao PDR to human health and biodiversity highlight the need for a multi-sector approach to effectively protect public health, economic interests and biodiversity.
Project description:The Lao People's Democratic Republic has emerged as a hub for illegal flora and fauna trade, more specifically, species in protected categories. However, numerous local species are traded and given less consideration despite their importance. Hence, we observed the local markets in the Feuang and Mad districts of Vientiane Province in summer and winter seasons to determine the species for trade, as well as their volume and conservation status. Altogether, 602 specimens corresponding to 23 genera and 22 species were identified. Among them, the highest number of species was mammals, followed by birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Six species are listed in threatened categories according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and nine under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species categories. The species in trade varied between seasons, as winter was the main poaching season for mammals and birds and summer was for amphibians, reptiles, and insects. This study revealed that food, traditional medicine, and curio production were the main reasons for wildlife trade. The lack of strong regulations, monitoring and law enforcement, and poverty are the major reasons for wildlife trade. Therefore, strong law enforcement, creating alternate income sources, and participatory conservation programs are required to effectively control wildlife trade in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Project description:The overhunting of wildlife for food and commercial gain presents a major threat to biodiversity in tropical forests and poses health risks to humans from contact with wild animals. Using a recent survey of wildlife offered at wild meat markets in Malaysia as a basis, we review the literature to determine the potential zoonotic infection risks from hunting, butchering and consuming the species offered. We also determine which taxa potentially host the highest number of pathogens and discuss the significant disease risks from traded wildlife, considering how cultural practices influence zoonotic transmission. We identify 51 zoonotic pathogens (16 viruses, 19 bacteria and 16 parasites) potentially hosted by wildlife and describe the human health risks. The Suidae and the Cervidae families potentially host the highest number of pathogens. We conclude that there are substantial gaps in our knowledge of zoonotic pathogens and recommend performing microbial food safety risk assessments to assess the hazards of wild meat consumption. Overall, there may be considerable zoonotic risks to people involved in the hunting, butchering or consumption of wild meat in Southeast Asia, and these should be considered in public health strategies.
Project description:There is growing concern that trade, by connecting geographically isolated regions, unintentionally facilitates the spread of invasive pathogens and pests - forms of biological pollution that pose significant risks to ecosystem and human health. We use a bioeconomic framework to examine whether trade always increases private risks, focusing specifically on pathogen risks from live animal trade. When the pathogens have already established and traders bear some private risk, we find two results that run counter to the conventional wisdom on trade. First, uncertainty about the disease status of individual animals held in inventory may increase the incentives to trade relative to the disease-free case. Second, trade may facilitate reduced long-run disease prevalence among buyers. These results arise because disease risks are endogenous due to dynamic feedback processes involving valuable inventories, and markets facilitate the management of private risks that producers face with or without trade.
Project description:Wildlife trade is a major pathway for introduction of invasive species worldwide. However, how exactly wildlife trade influences invasion risk, beyond the transportation of individuals to novel areas, remains unknown. We analyze the global trade network of wild-caught birds from 1995 to 2011 as reported by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). We found that before the European Union ban on imports of wild-caught birds, declared in 2005, invasion risk was closely associated with numbers of imported birds, diversity of import sources, and degree of network centrality of importer countries. After the ban, fluxes of global bird trade declined sharply. However, new trade routes emerged, primarily toward the Nearctic, Afrotropical, and Indo-Malay regions. Although regional bans can curtail invasion risk globally, to be fully effective and prevent rerouting of trade flows, bans should be global.
Project description:Zoonotic diseases cause millions of deaths every year. Diseases such as Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and avian influenza cause economic losses at the global level and jeopardize diplomatic relations between countries. As wildlife are the source of at least 70% of all emerging diseases and given the on-going concerns associated with wildlife trade as a disease transmission mechanism, we provide a 'global snapshot' of the legal trade in live wild animals and take stock of the potential health risks that it poses to global human health. Our analysis showed that 11,569,796 individual live wild animals, representing 1316 different species were exported from 189 different countries between 2012 and 2016. China was the largest exporter of live mammals (with 98,979 animals representing 58.7% of global trade). Nicaragua was the largest exporter of live amphibians (with 122,592 animals representing 53.8% of global trade). South Africa was the largest exporter of live birds (with 889,607 animals representing 39.2% of global trade). Peru was the largest exporter of live reptiles (with 1,675,490 animals representing 18.8% of global trade). Our analysis showed that mostly the USA and other high-income countries, the largest importers, drive the live animal trade. High-income countries and not the countries where wildlife diseases and pathogens are more likely to occur reported almost all of the disease reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health. Based on our findings, we discuss how maximising trade bans; working on human behaviour change and improving regulatory efforts to improve surveillance will decrease the risk of future pandemics, epidemics and outbreaks.
Project description:In the Luangwa Valley, Zambia, persistent poverty and hunger present linked challenges to rural development and biodiversity conservation. Both household coping strategies and larger-scale economic development efforts have caused severe natural resource degradation that limits future economic opportunities and endangers ecosystem services. A model based on a business infrastructure has been developed to promote and maintain sustainable agricultural and natural resource management practices, leading to direct and indirect conservation outcomes. The Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) model operates primarily with communities surrounding national parks, strengthening conservation benefits produced by these protected areas. COMACO first identifies the least food-secure households and trains them in sustainable agricultural practices that minimize threats to natural resources while meeting household needs. In addition, COMACO identifies people responsible for severe natural resource depletion and trains them to generate alternative income sources. In an effort to maintain compliance with these practices, COMACO provides extension support and access to high-value markets that would otherwise be inaccessible to participants. Because the model is continually evolving via adaptive management, success or failure of the model as a whole is difficult to quantify at this early stage. We therefore test specific hypotheses and present data documenting the stabilization of previously declining wildlife populations; the meeting of thresholds of productivity that give COMACO access to stable, high-value markets and progress toward economic self-sufficiency; and the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices by participants and other community members. Together, these findings describe a unique, business-oriented model for poverty alleviation, food production, and biodiversity conservation.
Project description:Protected areas are essential for conservation of wildlife populations. However, in the tropics there are two important factors that may interact to threaten this objective: 1) road development associated with large-scale resource extraction near or within protected areas; and 2) historical occupancy by traditional or indigenous groups that depend on wildlife for their survival. To manage wildlife populations in the tropics, it is critical to understand the effects of roads on the spatial extent of hunting and how wildlife is used. A geographical analysis can help us answer questions such as: How do roads affect spatial extent of hunting? How does market vicinity relate to local consumption and trade of bushmeat? How does vicinity to markets influence choice of game? A geographical analysis also can help evaluate the consequences of increased accessibility in landscapes that function as source-sink systems. We applied spatial analyses to evaluate the effects of increased landscape and market accessibility by road development on spatial extent of harvested areas and wildlife use by indigenous hunters. Our study was conducted in Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, Ecuador, which is impacted by road development for oil extraction, and inhabited by the Waorani indigenous group. Hunting activities were self-reported for 12-14 months and each kill was georeferenced. Presence of roads was associated with a two-fold increase of the extraction area. Rates of bushmeat extraction and trade were higher closer to markets than further away. Hunters located closer to markets concentrated their effort on large-bodied species. Our results clearly demonstrate that placing roads within protected areas can seriously reduce their capacity to sustain wildlife populations and potentially threaten livelihoods of indigenous groups who depend on these resources for their survival. Our results critically inform current policy debates regarding resource extraction and road building near or within protected areas.
Project description:Many wildlife species shift their diets to use novel resources in urban areas. The consequences of these shifts are not well known, and consumption of reliable-but low quality-anthropogenic food may present important trade-offs for wildlife health. This may be especially true for carnivorous species such as the American white ibis (Eudocimus albus), a nomadic wading bird which has been increasingly observed in urban parks in South Florida, USA. We tested the effects of anthropogenic provisioning on consumer nutrition (i.e. dietary protein), body condition and ectoparasite burdens along an urban gradient using stable isotope analysis, scaled mass index values and GPS transmitter data. Ibises that assimilated more provisioned food were captured at more urban sites, used more urban habitat, had lower mass-length residuals, lower ectoparasite scores, assimilated less ?15N and had smaller dietary isotopic ellipses. Our results suggest that ibises in urban areas are heavily provisioned with anthropogenic food, which appears to offer a trade-off by providing low-quality, but easily accessible, calories that may not support high mass but may increase time available for anti-parasite behaviours such as preening. Understanding such trade-offs is important for investigating the effects of provisioning on infection risk and the conservation of wildlife in human-modified habitats.This article is part of the theme issue 'Anthropogenic resource subsidies and host-parasite dynamics in wildlife'.
Project description:The trade in wildlife products can represent an important source of income for poor people, but also threaten wildlife locally, regionally and internationally. Bushmeat provides livelihoods for hunters, traders and sellers, protein to rural and urban consumers, and has depleted the populations of many tropical forest species. Management interventions can be targeted towards the consumers or suppliers of wildlife products. There has been a general assumption in the bushmeat literature that the urban trade is driven by consumer demand with hunters simply fulfilling this demand. Using the urban bushmeat trade in the city of Kumasi, Ghana, as a case study, we use a range of datasets to explore the processes driving the urban bushmeat trade. We characterise the nature of supply and demand by explicitly considering three market attributes: resource condition, hunter behaviour, and consumer behaviour. Our results suggest that bushmeat resources around Kumasi are becoming increasingly depleted and are unable to meet demand, that hunters move in and out of the trade independently of price signals generated by the market, and that, for the Kumasi bushmeat system, consumption levels are driven not by consumer choice but by shortfalls in supply and consequent price responses. Together, these results indicate that supply-side processes dominate the urban bushmeat trade in Kumasi. This suggests that future management interventions should focus on changing hunter behaviour, although complementary interventions targeting consumer demand are also likely to be necessary in the long term. Our approach represents a structured and repeatable method to assessing market dynamics in information-poor systems. The findings serve as a caution against assuming that wildlife markets are demand driven, and highlight the value of characterising market dynamics to inform appropriate management.