Addressing the wild meat trade and restoring landscapes, key to preventing the next pandemics
On 28-29 October, Dr. Peter Daszak, Sir Robert Watson, Elizabeth Mrema and more than 250 other experts at the Global Landscapes Forum Digital Biodiversity Conference ‘One World, One Health’ called for integrating biodiversity and landscape perspectives into efforts to prevent future outbreaks of zoonoses – diseases of animal origin such as COVID-19, SARS, Ebola and HIV. The event, joined by 5,000 people from 120 countries, comprised 50 scientific sessions and launched 15 policy-informing papers in the lead up to major 2021 events, including the UN Biodiversity talks in China and the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
“This pandemic is just one in a whole string that has been happening faster and faster on our planet because of unsustainable land use, wildlife trade and consumption,” said president of the EcoHealth Alliance Dr. Peter Daszak, one of the foremost authorities on zoonotic diseases globally and leader of the One Health approach, which calls for addressing human, animal and ecological health in tandem to prevent disease outbreaks. An estimated 1.7 million may exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 have the ability to infect people, according to IPBES.
“We need to work together: the virologists, conservationists, people working on environmental change – we all have a role to play.” The return on investment in preventing future diseases is estimated at US$100 for each dollar invested.
One of the key fronts to preventing the next pandemic is addressing the wild meat trade, according to the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme – implemented by CIFOR, CIRAD, FAO and WCS. In a new report launched at the conference, experts call for the reduction of wild meat demand in cities and, where the wildlife trade is legal, enforcing selective bans on the sale of animals that present a higher risk of spillover, such as bats, rodents and primates.
Sir Robert Watson, head of the scientific advisory group for the UNEP Global Assessments Synthesis Report, said during a plenary: “Degraded landscapes negatively impact 3.2 million people and cost up to 10 percent of the global GDP in lost ecosystem services. We need to act now. The situation is urgent, and time is not on our side.” Watson has co-chaired a number of prominent scientific assessments as Former Chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Participants emphasized there is no one organization or sector that can address issues at the animal-human-environment interface alone, and called for enhanced collaboration between professionals in each of these sectors –from epidemiologists to veterinarians and ecologists. A view that is supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the UN and IPBES, among others.
INDIGENOUS AND YOUTH VOICES
Besides leading scientists, the event prominently featured Indigenous Peoples and youth. The network of Indigenous communities living in and around the Prey Lang forest in Cambodia won the GLF 2020 Landscape Heroes award, which celebrates people taking action to safeguard the planet’s biodiversity – often at great personal risk. The network was selected by a panel of experts among 80 submissions from around the world, while environmental specialist Jorge Watanabe emerged as ‘audience favorite’ for his landscape restoration initiative in Peru.
The Global Landscapes Forum also launched GLFx, an initiative that offers members access to leading scientists, the GLF knowledge library and inspiring events organized in their local areas. Members also benefit from the support of their local chapter director and GLF’s 30 charter members to turn their ideas into practical solutions.
Also announced were six young restoration experts representing six ecosystems through the Restoration Stewards program, who will receive mentorship and funding from six partner organizations including CIFOR-ICRAF.