According to Steven Galster, founder of activist organization Freeland, Thailand has the potential to become a global leader in stopping illegal wildlife trade and reducing the risk for further pandemics to jump from animals to humans.
Mr. Galster was speaking at a press conference to announce the launch of a global campaign called “Endpandemics” at a Bangkok hotel.
He started the campaign in response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling on governments worldwide to become more aggressive in dealing with wild animals’ illegal trade.
According to scientific information, most emerging diseases usually come from wet markets and trade areas where animals are kept in cages. The wildlife market at Chatuchak in Bangkok is a specific example of a place the campaign is targeting for closure.
Despite markets such as Chatuchak still operating, Mr. Galster was optimistic that Thailand could set an example in the fight against wildlife trade in the region.
He cited the country’s response to the covid-19 outbreak, saying it was excellent, with Thailand recording one of the world’s lowest death rates and case numbers.
However, the Freeland founder also warned against the next viral disease. Illegal wildlife trade is a highly likely contender for causing the next outbreak.
To prevent another outbreak of a new viral disease, Mr. Galster called on law enforcement around Thailand to completely ban wildlife trade of any kind. He said a vaccine against covid-19 would be useless if another, new virus emerges from wet or wildlife markets:
“A new vaccine will not work against a new outbreak strain. A true, sustainable vaccine will address the root causes of these outbreaks but there needs to be a new approach not only for the protection of people, but of wildlife and natural ecosystems as well.”
He continued by saying Thailand can lead the way in the fight against illegal wildlife trade:
“Thailand can be that global leader by becoming the first country in the world to ban all commercial trade in wild animals.”
Thailand’s geographical location has made the country somewhat of a hub for wildlife trafficking. At airports, tonnes of African ivory and pangolins are confiscated, usually destined for China.
However, numerous experts have said the illegal wildlife trade is slowing down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, Mr. Galster said that orders to close down markets would retract once the outbreak dissipates.
Once illegal wildlife trade resumes, the possibility of disease-transmitting from animal to human increases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three out of four emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
Source: Bangkok Post