Serious wildlife crime is organised, transnational, is fuelled by corruption, and has a devastating impact on wildlife, local communities, national economies, security, public health and entire ecosystems, including their ability to sequester carbon. Of all the known threats to wildlife, the illegal taking, trade and consumption of wildlife is one of the most destructive and destabilising.
Despite the severe impacts of such crimes, we do not have a global agreement on wildlife crime and existing wildlife trade laws are not adequately complied with or enforced.
Scientific research indicates that COVID-19 was most likely transmitted to humans from its reservoir host, a horseshoe bat, via another intermediate host species. We know that past epidemics and pandemics have been caused by wildlife-related zoonotic diseases (e.g., Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV/AIDS and others) and the conditions that make spillover from animals to humans more likely. The UN IPBES also reported that 1.7 million undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in wild animals, about half of which could spill over to people, including through wildlife trade, markets, and consumption.
Despite the risks to public health and animal health of high-risk wildlife trade, markets and consumption habits, current international wildlife trade laws do not take account of public or animal health issues and there is a need to take a ‘One Health’ approach to wildlife trade, markets and consumption.