Virus and wildlife

Andrew Sebastian
By Andrew Sebastian

So, all eyes and conversation pieces be it at work, social gatherings and whats app groups, are set upon deadly viruses these days – the flavor of the month being the coronavirus!

If you have not read or dialed in.. this epidemic has been traced to a market in the city of Wuhan, China where a range of wildlife & bush meat was reportedly sold! The link between wild animals, close wildlife-human interactions and the diseases they inevitably carry that infect & kill us humans is no more shocking than fatalities involving car drivers that skip the use of seatbelts when driving !

A study by the Global Virome Project even estimated there to be ‘nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom’. 

So, have we learnt anything from SARS (transmitted from bats to civet cats and then US!), Ebola (from bats and a few host animals then to US!), MERS (from bats to camels and to US!) and how about HIV/AIDS – a chimpanzee in Central Africa and passed along to US!. Let’s not even talk about the bubonic plague!!

I put it to my fellow mankind.. bush meat, the illicit trade of exotic and wild animals, the exotic pet trade and the indiscriminate clearing, annihilation of natural habitats, our disgusting habits of littering in parks and picnic spots and the unabated GHG emissions all play a role in bringing plagues and epidemics to our doorstep! It is settled science that as we unlock vast areas of forests and warm our seas we run the inevitable risk of turning ourselves into versions of my favourite fictitious hero, Thanos (an Avenger ‘villain’ for non movie buffs), who, at a snap of his fingers, brought the human race into balance with planet earth.. by killing off half its population!           

So, what can we do about protecting ourselves? Well, at least from the humble reach of this column, we should keep a respectable distance from wildlife and obviously say no to exotic pets, bush meat and to persuade our governments to protect and keep safe, all our natural habitats & landscapes. There are a million other ‘markets’ like that one in famous Wuhan and even here in very own our sleepy Malaysian towns/cities of Jeli, Miri, Sibu, Gerik, Kuala Baram, Kuala Lipis, Kahang – they need to be looked into.

Members of the public must actively play a role.. call the wildlife department  hotline at 1-800-88-5151 or MYCAT at 019-3564194 to report people, wildlife captivity or poaching activities. Do this or a look forward to the upcoming 1,699,999 viruses..

The views expressed by the writer here are solely his and do not reflect that of NNN or the Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA)