Apinya Wipatayotin, The Bangkok Post | July 9, 2020
Activists campaigning against wildlife crime say Thailand could be a global leader in stopping pandemics by further cracking down on and ceasing to be a gateway for the illegal wildlife trade.
They believe this would help stop animal-to-human disease transmission.
They said scientific information has shown that the majority of emerging diseases usually originate from wet markets where wild animals are caged.
Speaking at a press conference to launch a global campaign “Endpandemics” on Wednesday, Steven Galster, the founder of Freeland who started the campaign aimed at the global community in April when the Covid-19 pandemic expanded globally, called on the government to take more aggressive action to ban the commercial trade in wild animals.
He said the nation could return to its top place in the region in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade under the framework of the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network known as ASEAN-WEN.
He said Thailand’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak had been exemplary, resulting in some of the lowest numbers of cases and deaths in the world.
However, it has left one door open for the next viral bomb to explode, which is the illegal wildlife trade on its own doorstep. He said there needs to be strong efforts from all stakeholders, especially law enforcement, to completely ban it.
He added Thailand should close its gate to wildlife traders and lead other countries by example to follow the World Health Organization (WHO) “One Health” approach that involves simultaneously protecting people, wild animals and ecosystems.
“A new vaccine will not work against a new outbreak strain,” Mr Galster said.
“A true, sustainable vaccine will address the root causes of these outbreaks but there needs to be a new approach not only for the protection of people, but of wildlife and natural ecosystems as well.
“Thailand can be that global leader by becoming the first country in the world to ban all commercial trade in wild animals.”
Thailand is widely known as a regional hub for wildlife crime due to its geographic location and transport system linking to the other countries despite its efforts to control wildlife crime.
Tonnes of African ivory and pangolins have been confiscated at airports. The final destination of these items in the world wildlife trade market is usually China.
Many anti-wildlife trafficking experts say the Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role in stopping the illegal wildlife trade.
An order to close the markets will be eased when the outbreak fades. Mr Galster said reopening them will be detrimental to wildlife protection and increase the possibility of diseases from animal-to-man transmission such as Sars, Mers, birdflu and Covid-19.
Mr Galster also raised concerns about the Chinese government’s policy to clean up and reorganise the wildlife market. He said it “is a big mistake”.
The WHO said 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.