The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) says that the world risks another virus of the magnitude of COVID-19 if the trafficking, sale and consumption of wildlife are not stopped.
UNODC said this in a statement in Abuja, adding that the UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report 2020 pointed to the fact that zoonotic diseases represented 75 per cent of all emerging infections in the world.
It added that diseases like SARS-CoV-2 that caused COVID-19 pandemic have already been linked to wildlife with pangolins top on the suspected list.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that wildlife crime is a threat not only to the environment and biodiversity, but also to human health.
“When wild animals are poached from their natural habitat, butchered and sold illegally, the potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases – those caused by pathogens that spread from animals to humans – is increased.
“Zoonotic diseases represent up to 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases and include SARS-CoV-2 that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The products offered from the trafficked species for human consumption, by definition escape any hygiene or sanitary control: as such, they pose even greater risks of infectious diseases,” it said.
UNODC noted that pangolins, which were identified as a potential source of coronavirus, were the most trafficked wild mammals in the world, with seizures of pangolin scales having increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018.
It said that Nigeria, unfortunately, played a significant role in the trafficking and sale of pangolins with at least 51 tonnes of pangolin scales seized in 2019, rising from just two tonnes in 2015.
The UNODC also noted that in the last 20 years – 1999 to 2020, it made 180,000 seizures from 149 countries and territories.
Top on the list of species that were being trafficked were – mammals, reptiles, corals, birds, and fish, adding that traffickers from about 150 nationalities have already been identified.
Analysing the data, UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, said that if wildlife crimes were not stopped, they will heighten the risk of a future public health emergency.