By Burak Bir
ANKARA (AA) – The outbreak of a novel coronavirus once again has shown the immediate need to permanently close wildlife markets to prevent further zoonotic diseases, according to a wildlife advocate group.
"It is clear that conservation is now an issue of public health: the urgent need to protect wildlife is necessary to protect ourselves," WildAid said in a statement on Thursday.
Founded in 2000, the U.S.-based environmental organization WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts.
"[…] We believe the time is ripe to permanently close wildlife markets and prevent future zoonotic disease outbreaks," it stressed.
Mentioning that Ebola, SARS and the COVID-19 outbreak have been proved as infectious diseases that have the capability to be transmitted from animals to humans, the group stressed that the outbreak brought a new opportunity to end wildlife trade.
"As we’ve seen with SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19, the commercialization of the wildlife trade is a ticking time bomb, and it will take all of us working together to prevent the next pandemic," Peter Knights, the CEO of WildAid, said in the statement.
On the measures taken after it was learned that COVID-19 spread from a live animal market in Wuhan, the group said a temporary ban on the consumption of wild animals in China is not enough. "We hope a permanent ban will set a strong precedent for the whole of Asia."
WildAid called for a total action followed by "bold steps" to protect the wildlife as well as to reduce the possibilities of human-wildlife disease transmission.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 175 countries and regions. TheWorld Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 492,000 while the death toll has crossed 22,000 and nearly 120,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
Italy, China, Iran, and Spain continue to be the countries hardest hit.
Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.