When a deadly zoonotic outbreak is prevented or stopped due to conservation efforts, it doesn’t make the headlines. Tragically, we know all too well the diseases of animal origin that we failed to prevent from the start — like SARS, Ebola, HIV, and COVID-19. Our health is inextricably linked with wildlife. For example, each pangolin captured and trafficked brings a risk of deadly coronavirus similar to COVID-19, yet it is the most trafficked mammal on the planet.
It’s not just trafficking. Habitat destruction increases unhealthy human-wildlife interaction. COVID-19 has devastated economies and forced many vulnerable people to turn to poaching and bushmeat hunting. The list goes on… so every success in conservation is a monumental triumph for human health as well as animals. That’s why wildlife advocates are calling on the U.S. Congress to increase funding in the 2022 fiscal year for international programs that enhance wildlife conservation and combat wildlife trafficking.
Without these vital conservation efforts, human-wildlife contact increases and poses a public health risk. Zoonotic pathogens, or animal infections that are transmissible to humans, account for 75% of all emerging human infections. We must safeguard wildlife and their habitats to prevent future pandemics like COVID-19, and other devastating zoonotic pathogens like SARS, Ebola, and HIV.
We can’t let wildlife conservation take a backseat — not after COVID-19. Urge US. legislators in the House of Representatives to increase funding for international conservation to strengthen efforts around wildlife crime response, habitat protection, community involvement in conservation, benefits, and livelihoods.