Over the past 20 years humanity has faced SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, Swine Flu, and now Covid-19. Today, international wildlife charity, Born Free, has released a high-impact video highlighting how humans are to blame for the current global crisis and that, unless we change our ways, another pandemic will happen again - much sooner than we think.
Narrated by the charity's Founder Patron, Joanna Lumley OBE, the video highlights that as many as an estimated 1.7million unidentified viruses exist in animals which could potentially infect humans. Any one of these could be the cause of the next pandemic and that, thanks to globalisation, we have created 'safe passage' for viruses to spread around the world before they can be contained.
Joanna states: "We know that we must stop destroying, over-consuming, polluting and wasting our planet's precious resources. This must be a combined effort by governments, commerce, communities and individuals. But, to deal with the very immediate threat of another global catastrophe, we have to focus on ending the destruction and conversion of natural habitats and the devastating impact of the wildlife trade.
"The vast majority of these viruses originated in wild animals before infecting us. Destroying and exploiting nature puts us in closer contact with wildlife than ever before."
Will Travers OBE, Executive President and Co-Founder of Born Free, added: "Wild animals are cruelly caught, traded, stacked, shipped, killed and consumed in wildlife markets. Many of them carry viruses to which they have developed immunity over thousands of years. We, however, do not have such protection. A virus that can live in a healthy bat can infect and kill millions of humans, as we are witnessing across the globe right now. What caused the Covid-19 outbreak? A bat? A pangolin? No - it was us. Because of our treatment of nature.
"As an essential first step, wildlife markets must close. The shutters need to come down - for good. This is not just a moral action. We must learn. We must re-educate ourselves. We must act now! Our treatment of the natural world has brought the planet to the brink. It is time for us to step away from the edge, for the sake of all life on earth. When we protect them all, we protect ourselves."
Born Free has set up a new section on its website for the public, highlighting many ways in which individuals and businesses can change their behaviour so as to help nature recover and, by doing so, reduce the risk of another pandemic from happening before it's too late. From urging decision-makers around the world to put wildlife first and helping wildlife at home, to challenging captive animal display facilities on their conservation and animal welfare claims, avoiding attractions and activities that exploit captive wild animals, and making wildlife and nature-friendly decisions about what we buy, use, eat and consume, there are plenty of creative suggestions that can make a real, lasting difference. Find out more at www.bornfree.org.uk/protect-them.