There is a need for the international community to enforce a ban on legal and illegal trade in wild animals amid threat to public health, ecosystems balance and livelihoods, an African campaigner said on Wednesday during World Wildlife Day.
Edith Kabesiime, Wildlife Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection, African Office, said that ending wildlife trade is key to sustaining rural livelihoods, curbing the spread of zoonotic diseases and strengthening the resilience of ecosystems in the continent.
James Ntulume, another conservationist, says that increasing deforestation is driving animals to extinction and is forcing national bodies like the Uganda Wildlife Authority into desperate measures like farms and breeding sites to be able to conserve wildlife.
Ntulume also noted the increasing interface between the wild animals and humans which is responsible for emerging and re-emerging viruses such as Ebola and the current SARS- COV -2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Action is needed to end the global wildlife trade, to safeguard animal welfare, biodiversity and to protect our health,” Kabesiime said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.
“We are urging people not to buy, own, or breed a wild animal for entertainment, for traditional medicine or an exotic pet. A life in captivity is a world away from a life in the wild,” she added.
Kabesiime said this year’s World Wildlife Day whose theme is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet” was a wake-up call for African governments to strengthen the protection of wildlife habitats amid threats posed by population growth and climatic stresses.
“Wild animals should be protected in their natural habitats and not exploited for commercial purposes. Many pandemics are directly linked to the destruction of wildlife habitats,” said Kabesiime.
An interactive map developed by World Animal Protection in late 2020 indicates that Africa is home to some of the most traded wildlife species including lions, elephants, African grey parrot, ball pythons and pangolins.
Kabesiime said the continent’s iconic mammals, reptiles and birds are being traded to help meet global demand for traditional medicine, pets and ornaments.
“Africa is also home to some of the world’s most cruel, dangerous and exploitative wildlife trading markets. Some of the activities are criminal, others are legally authorized, but all are cruel,” said Kabesiime.
Wildlife trade is valued at $40 billion and Kabesiime says half of that money is derived from illegal trade or legal trade where stipulated standards are flouted. Recently, several countries have amended or put in place laws to guide safe trade in animals while others have prohibited trade in wildlife.
She said that African governments should enforce global and domestic legal instruments to end the trade in wildlife products that fuels poaching and is a threat to national security.
Story compiled with assistance from Xinhua News Agency and The Independent (Uganda)