Tailored approach needed to tackle wildlife markets in developing nations

By Rocío Otoya

Sydney, Australia, May 8 (efe-epa).- Whether wildlife markets are regulated or banned will depend on the circumstances of each country since in many developing nations they are essential for food security, Mark Schipp, president of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), tells EFE.

The origin of the coronavirus pandemic is thought to have been caused by the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from bats to humans via an exotic animal in a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The findings have prompted experts to push for reforms to regulate these spaces and make them safer environments although any changes could take years.

For many, wild animals are a source of protein so approaches need to be tailored to each country’s needs although Schipp says animals should only be traded dead.

Question: When species that are not part of the same habitat are mixed, such as a primate from the Amazon and a pangolin from Africa, does this create dangerous conditions for the spread of zoonotic viruses?

Answer: Yes, because you are bringing stress to overcrowded animals and when they are stressed they shed more virus. The environment is of poor environmental health so it is unclean, it is wet, the spread of faeces, of urine, of blood and all those, can carry virus between one animal species and another, particularly when the cages are stacked on top of each other and you are bringing another different species in and you created an environment where the virus can easily circulate amongst all the species present. Including the human storekeepers and visitors to the market.

Q: China has taken the first steps to ban hunting, trade, transport and consumption of wild animals. How does the OIE contribute to the reform of wildlife markets?

A: The individual actions of member countries are important but in order to make a wholesale change many countries, many developing and less developed countries need assistance with that from international standard-setting organizations such as WHO, OIE and FAO, and so that’s why I have been calling on those international parties to set standards and provide guidelines to assist in making that transition.In many of these countries those markets are important in terms of food security and they also serve an important cultural role, but in many countries that is no longer the case, that it is not necessary to have wildlife present in markets in a live form alongside domestic animals and food so there may be ways to provide separation between wildlife and other species, ensure that wildlife is presented dead rather than alive and so what we are looking for is for those international bodies to provide that guidance and to set standards which would be beneficial to all of the member countries.

Q. Do you think a ban on markets would be counterproductive?

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