The World Wildlife Fund released a statement on Tuesday asking countries in East and Southeast Asia to enforce existing bans on wildlife trade, in light of the viral COVID-19 outbreak which has now reached around 60 countries.
The statement, from the WWF Asia Pacific office, welcomed China’s decision to ban the consumption of wildlife and to end the unregulated sale of this meat. China had initially instituted a partial ban in January, which was extended to a complete ban in consumption and trade of all wildlife.
“We call on the relevant Ministries responsible for wildlife protection and public health to combine their capacity and resources to increase market inspections, reach out to the public, and stop the sale and consumption of wild meat and other wildlife products,” the statement reads.
Researchers have suspected that the coronavirus originated in bats and transmitted to humans at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. The statement pointed to the potential transfer of dangerous pathogens to humans through wildlife meat consumption. Previous viral outbreaks, such as SARS, MERS, were also linked to wildlife origins.
Cambodian Environment Minister Say Samal said the government was already enforcing its ban on wildlife trade and that consumption had dropped on account of better living standards and people’s understanding of the downsides of indulging in wildlife meat.
“We also fully enforce our laws regarding all wildlife trafficking,” he said. “For the NGOs, I think they are involved with the global movement around the world to reduce reliance on wildlife and to rely on domesticated animals for nutrition.”