Land Use Changes and Illegal Wildlife Trade Drive Pandemic Emergence
12 April 2021

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The newly released IPBES Workshop on Biodiversity and Pandemics report has found that there is a need to change our approach to land use and to improve wildlife trade in order to bolster our pandemic preparedness.

The news comes from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which put together the report to find out the driving forces behind pandemics, and how to reduce pandemic risks going forward.

IPBES is an intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services, in response to requests from Governments, the private sector and civil society. Scientists from all parts of the world contribute to the work of IPBES on a voluntary basis, and are nominated by their government or an organisation, and selected by the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel.

The contents of the report contrasts much of the sentiment that was heard during the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, where many were suggesting that blanket bans on wildlife trade were required to prevent future pandemics.

Not only do the authors point out that indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) depend on wildlife trade, they also highlight that it is only specific parts of the trade that need addressing.

Specifically, illegal trade and unsustainable consumption are the mentioned as being drivers of pandemic emergence. It is also noted that legal trade carries some pandemic risk; to combat this they suggest reducing or removing certain species in wildlife trade that are identified by expert review as having a high-risk of disease emergence.

In addition, the report puts forward new initiatives such as health and safety measures (market clean-out days, increased cold chain capacity, biosafety, biosecurity and sanitation in markets) and disease surveillance to improve current wildlife trade operations.

Land-use changes, agricultural expansion, and urbanization are other main issues related to pandemic emergence, with these factors contributing to more than 30% of emerging disease events.

As one potential solution to this, the report highlights the need to utilise effective habitat conservation measures in order reduce the risk of pandemics. Conservation through the sustainable use of wildlife resources may be one such tool to focus on going forward, as it secures natural areas by generating benefits for local communities residing in them.

As an advocate of sustainable use, as well as regulated and sustainable wildlife trade, the CIC would like to join in supporting the proposed solutions to reducing pandemic emergence suggested in this report.

A full version of the report can be downloaded here.

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