April 2021, By John Scanlon
Our world is feeling the full brunt of a pandemic that most likely had its origins in wildlife. Viruses can spillover from wild animals to humans in any country and wildlife crime is a scourge affecting every continent. We need to rethink how we trade, market, and consume wildlife, be it legal, illegal, regulated, or unregulated, knowing that if we get it wrong, it can have massive global implications.
The UN IPBES tells us that 1.7 million undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in wild animals, about half of which could spillover to people. The World Bank values the impacts of wildlife trafficking at a staggering $1-2 trillion a year,when one includes all species in trade, and the impacts on ecosystems, including their ability to sequester carbon.
We need a global, collective, multidisciplinary response to address these threats, and this requires an international legal framework that is fit for purpose. Yet, there is no global agreement on wildlife crime, as there is for example on human trafficking. This failure reverberates throughout the system, right down to the local level, with wildlife trafficking not being viewed as a serious a crime with devastating consequences for people and planet.
Our international wildlife trade laws do not include public and animal health considerations in their decision making. Our 50 year old wildlife trade convention, CITES, only considers the impacts of any wildlife trade on the survival of a listed-species at its source, not the implications of the trade on human and animal health, at its source, in transit or at its destination.
Our international laws are not up to the task and humans and wildlife are losing. The stark reality is that, left as it is, our system is not going to end these crimes or work to prevent the next pandemic.
It’s time to adopt a new global agreement on wildlife crime, and to institutionalise a ‘One Heath’ approach to wildlife trade. We know how to do both, and the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime was created to promote international wildlife law reforms and support countries in advancing them.
And 25 International Champions have joined the Global Initiative to advocate for these reforms, including the Jane Goodall Institute Global. The strong support of Jane, with her unparalleled global standing, inspiring advocacy, and vast networks, is invaluable in helping build the momentum and support needed to convince our political leaders to act.
If we get it right, we can prevent future pandemics, save biodiversity, combat climate change and ensure that the benefits of a country’s wildlife flow to local communities and the Governments of source States, and not to transnational, organised criminals.
But success demands collective endeavour. We all have our role to play, as consumers, investors, and citizens. Let’s all follow Jane’s example and rise to the challenge!
Learn more here.