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Wild Africa Fund: We need to protect wildlife to reduce risks from another pandemic

Wild Africa Fund: We need to protect wildlife to reduce risks from another pandemic
July 06
10:01 2023

The Wild Africa Fund, a global non-profit organisation, says there is an urgent need to curb illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, and climate change to reduce the risk of future disease transmissions.

In a statement on Thursday to mark World Zoonoses Day, the organisation said Africa faces a growing risk as it grapples with population growth, rapid urbanisation, deforestation and the commercial bushmeat trade.

The NGO further said the World Health Organisation has identified a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks, such as Ebola and monkeypox diseases, in the region from 2012 to 2022 compared to the previous decade (2001 to 2011), according to the World Health Organization WHO.

Across the globe, over 60 percent of human infectious diseases are believed to be spread by deadly germs found in animals. Before COVID, in the last two decades, zoonotic diseases caused economic losses of more than $100 billion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).


The Wild Africa Fund noted that the recent outbreaks of anthrax, monkeypox (now known as Mpox) and Marburg virus in some parts of Africa, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, serve as a reminder that zoonotic diseases continue to pose a significant threat to healthcare, economies, and global security.

“As a notable hub for the trafficking of illegal wildlife, Nigeria cannot afford to be the epicentre of the next pandemic, which would be disastrous in terms of human health and the economy,” Mark Ofua, veterinarian and Wild Africa Fund Nigerian spokesperson, said.

“We must quickly pass the new wildlife law introduced before the election, increase our enforcement and awareness efforts to stop illegal bushmeat trade, mitigate the spread of zoonotic diseases and protect our environment.”


Akin Abayomi, a professor and One Health advocate in Lagos, said: “If you don’t know what’s out there, you’re destroying that ecosystem, and you’re creating that pathogenicity for humans to encroach into animals’ space to cut down trees, destroy their environment, and come into contact with wildlife.

“If the human population is not used to any particular pathogen, it will have no immunity, which now creates an opportunity for it to spread quickly among the human population. Ebola will kill six out of 10 people. Lassa fever will kill 5 out of 10 people. Look at what COVID did to the global economy; we’re still recovering.”

Following the coronavirus outbreak, which was believed to have spread from a live animal market, the Chinese government banned the breeding, sale, and consumption of most wild animals for food. Yet, across Africa, particularly in West and Central Africa, unregulated live wildlife markets persist despite the risk of a future outbreak.

Peter Knights OBE, co-founder and CEO of Wild Africa Fund, stated: “We must defuse this ticking bomb by moving urban consumers away from illegal bushmeat through education and enforcing laws and preserving what wildlife habitat remains. At the same time, we must develop alternative sources of income and protein for those that hunt bushmeat.”


Wild Africa Fund is running an awareness campaign using TV, radio, print media, billboards, and social media to inform people across Africa that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are highly interconnected and we must protect wildlife to protect ourselves.

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