March 20, 2020
There is NO Safe Wildlife Trade
- as seen by -Lucy Keatts
This emotive little bat caught my eye as he lay there, posed sadly and somehow sweetly, alongside the chilis in the fresh food market of Vang Vieng, Laos. Also for sale in the market that day were wild porcupine, civets, birds, wild pig, deer, bamboo rats, monitor lizards, and hundreds more bats; some pickled, some dried, some fresh and some as grilled kebabs.
I took this photo in 2009, at the outset of WCS Health Program’s work on the US Agency for International Development’s PREDICT project, through which we studied the risk of disease emergence at interfaces between wildlife and people; interfaces that are increasing as a result of wildlife trade, deforestation, and land use change. Trade that brings wildlife into close proximity with humans and domestic animals, such as I observed that day in a Laotian market, and as can be witnessed across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, provides an ideal mixing pot for diseases and for cross-species pathogen transmission.
Now, with the emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19, that originated at a live animal market selling wildlife in China, just as did the SARS Coronavirus, the whole world is becoming acutely aware of the threat that wildlife poaching, trafficking, and trade can pose to global health and global economic security. There is NO safe wildlife trade.