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Wildlife conservation reduces pandemic risk

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Educating wildlife consumers and strictly enforcing regulations is crucial.

In order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the future, the Wild Africa Fund has urged swift action to combat illicit wildlife trading, deforestation, and climate change. The recently reported cases of anthrax, monkeypox, which is now known as Mpox, and Marburg virus in certain regions of Africa, as well as the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, act as evidence that zoonotic diseases are still posing a substantial danger to human health, economy, and global security.

At a press conference held in honour of World Zoonoses Day, Wild Africa Fund Co-Founder and CEO Peter Knights said that eating bushmeat in urban areas is a major contributor to the spread of zoonotic illnesses. This problem has to be eradicated by educating urban consumers, strictly enforcing regulations, and protecting what little animal habitat is left in the nation. Meanwhile, as Knights pointed out, the country needs to provide other means of livelihood for the people who rely on hunting bushmeat.

The effect of illicit wildlife trade on health and the economy is enormous.

Dr. Mark Ofua, a veterinarian and the Nigerian spokesman for Wild Africa Fund said the country couldn’t afford to be at the forefront of the next outbreak. The impact of Nigeria’s role as a major transit point for illicit wildlife trade on human health and the economy is enormous. New wildlife legislation was presented before the election, and the government has to approve it as soon as possible to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases, end the illicit bushmeat trade, and safeguard the environment.

Also, Professor Akin Abayomi, who serves as One Health advocate, echoed these issues, stating that people should consider what COVID has caused to the global economy, from which the world is still trying to recover, before deciding to consume wildlife. He went on to say that ignorance of the natural world leads to the destruction of ecosystems and the spread of disease when humans invade the territory of animals, which includes cutting down trees, destroying their habitats, and coming into direct contact with wild animals.

2012 to 2022 sees a surge in the number of outbreaks.

It is impossible for the human population to develop an immunity to a specific infection if they have never been exposed to it before. This opens the door for the pathogen to spread across the human population rapidly. About 6 out of 10 persons infected with Ebola will die. Five out of ten people will die from Lassa fever. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) was cited by the group to show that between 2012 and 2022, the number of cases of zoonotic outbreaks in the region increased by 63% when compared to the preceding decade of 2001 to 2011.

Africa is in an increasingly precarious position since it is dealing with issues such as fast urbanisation, population increase, deforestation, and commercial bushmeat trafficking. It is estimated that deadly germs present in animals are responsible for the transmission of around 60 percent of the world’s human infectious diseases. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), zoonotic illnesses were responsible for economic losses of over $100 billion in the two decades prior to the invocation of COVID.

There are about 700,000 undiscovered zoonotic diseases.

Zoonotic infections are becoming an increasingly widespread problem all over Africa and the rest of the globe. According to research conducted by scientists, there are around 700,000 zoonotic diseases that have not yet been discovered but have the potential to be transmitted from animals to humans. Major infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Monkeypox (Mpox), Anthrax, Ebola, Marburg virus, Yellow fever, and Lassa fever, have all been documented in the past 12 months in Africa and throughout the globe.

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