The World Wide Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have expressed support for the Chinese government which has imposed a ban on wildlife trade as it is suspected of being behind the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus infection.
The WCS also called on various governments to close live animal markets mixed with wild animals.
A statement issued by the WWF on Tuesday said the Chinese National Forest & Grassland Administration (NFGA) had recently deployed a series of epidemic prevention and control measures.
“We welcome the announcement by the NFGA and relevant departments in China to implement a strict ban on all wild animal trade and check all wildlife breeding and utilisation permits,” it said.
The WWF said China’s decision has raised awareness over associated threats to human health posed by the illegal or unregulated wildlife trade.
“We appreciate the immediate action taken by China’s law enforcement agencies at various levels to close wildlife markets in the wake of the outbreak of the new coronavirus suspected to have originated from Wuhan, China,” WWF said.
The WCS also called on various governments to recognise the global public threat of live animal markets and strengthen enforcement efforts against the trafficking of wild animals.
“Poorly regulated, live animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population and viruses to exchange viral components among multiple species being traded, creating new viruses with host spectrum,” the WCS said.
WCS health programme executive director Christian Walzer said governments must recognise the threat of diseases from animals.
“It is time to close live animal markets that trade in wildlife, strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals, and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviours, especially in cities,” he said.
A statement from the WCS said Chinese scientists believe the coronavirus originated in wildlife sold illegally at a live animal market in Wuhan.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha said: “As a wildlife conservation organisation, we welcome the temporary closure of animal markets mixed with wild animals.
“It is a good move. But what we want to have is markets closed permanently and across China and relevant countries across Asia,” he said.