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CMS COP13: Not pangolins, illegal trade to blame for coronavirus

Panelist Dr Susan Lieberman from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that the trade of wild species for food, ornaments and medicines was worth between eight and 20 billion USD per year

Written by Parimal A Dabhi | Gandhinagar | Published: February 20, 2020 1:34:50 am
pangolin, coronavirus Pangolin is considered to be the mammal most heavily traded for meat. (File)

In a panel discussion on ‘The Control of Illegal Trade in Wildlife including Migratory Species’, held on the sidelines of the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13), the issue of pangolins being implicated for the spread of coronavirus was discussed on Wednesday.

Panelist Dr Susan Lieberman from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that the trade of wild species for food, ornaments and medicines was worth between eight and 20 billion USD per year. She indicated that pangolins were being implicated by some as a possible cause of the virus.

“…Nobody is happy with this coronavirus that is about the Illegal trade of live animals. Live animal food markets need to be stopped,” Lieberman said. “Pangolin is considered to be the most heavily traded mammal…largely to Asia, China and South East Asia for traditional medicine and meat. It is pangolin which is being implicated for this outbreak. Why bla-me pangolin? We should blame illegal trade and consumption of pangolin (which is an endangered species).” She also sought the closure of live animal food markets.

The need for better orientation of the judiciary towards wildlife crimes was also vocalised at the panel discussion jointly organised by the Ministry of Forest, Environment & Climate Change (MoEF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society, a voluntary organisation.

Additional Director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Tilotama Varma was chairing the discussion which also saw representation from the states of Assam, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand.

A forest officer from Assam, Bankim Sharma presented figures of wildlife crime in his state between 2011 and 2018, which showed a low conviction rate. When asked the reason for the same, Sharma said that it is difficult to prove cases of wildlife crime in the court of law. Following this, Tilotama Varma added that another reason is improper investigations and the lack of proper forensic facilities.

Another panelist, Saket Badola said that there is a problem with the judiciary as well. Wildlife crimes are not a priority for the judiciary, which is why many voluntary organisations closely work with the judiciary for the latter’s orientation towards wildlife crimes, he added.

A range of issues related to the illegal trade of wildlife were discussed at the panel discussion. Badola said that there is a need to check modern trends in the trade of wildlife crimes. One such trend, he said, is the use of social media and encrypted messenger services for the wildlife trade.

The misuse of rapidly developing domestic airlines for the illegal transport of wild animals by criminals also needs to be addressed, he added.

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