Wild animal trafficking could cause new pandemics researchers warn

An elephant displays it's sought after ivory

Wild animal trafficking could cause new pandemics researchers warn Credit: Yathin S Krishnappa Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Illegal wildlife trafficking could cause future pandemics and a loss of biodiversity claim the Business School at the University of Sussex in a new paper, May 31. 

Global supply routes are being hijacked and exploited for use in criminal activity says the research, with sought-after rare animals and animal products such as Ivory being trafficked.

The study found weaknesses in sea supply chains to be vulnerable to criminal activity and that large container vessels, badly guarded understaffed ports and corruption allowed this behaviour to be perpetrated.

Illegal trafficking of animals accounts for $23 billion in global trade according to a World Bank report in 2019, with rare meats such as Pangolin also part of the problem.

Professor Martin C. Schleper from the University of Sussex Business School said in a press release: “Despite different theories about the origin of Covid-19, previous research has shown that emerging infectious diseases are largely of zoonotic origin, and more than seventy per cent of these emanate from wildlife.”

“The close and uncontrolled contact between people and wildlife in illegal trafficking creates opportunities for zoonotic diseases to transmit from animals to humans. Unless illegal trafficking is comprehensively tackled, we are increasing the odds of future pandemics.”

“There has been insufficient global acknowledgement of situations in which supply chains are an integral part of wider societal problems.”

“We need swift action from those involved in supply chains and from governments around the world to tackle wildlife traffickers and their hijacking of supply chains. This could include a global ban on wildlife products, stricter enforcement of laws and regulations, and the development of technology to detect illegal activity.”

The problem with solving this, however, is that for the freight companies that form part of the supply chain used by traffickers, any increased checks, especially at undermanned ports, would impact their efficiency and therefore their business.

The paper asserts that much needs to be done to avoid future pandemics but regrettably, that will be at a cost to world trade.

Suggestions for recommended measures are made in the paper though, such as the specific exclusion of the transport of animals and products by freight companies, new legislation with better enforcement and also better public information on the risks of the illegal trade.

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Written by

David Laycock

Dave Laycock has always written. Poems, songs, essays, academic papers as well as newspaper articles; the written word has always held a great fascination for him and he is never happier than when being creative. From a musical background, Dave has travelled the world performing and also examining for a British music exam board. He also writes, produces and performs and records music. All this aside, he is currently fully focussed on his journalism and can’t wait to share more stories from around the world and beyond.