Human survival hinges on preservation and conservation of nature, says WWF amid Covid-19 outbreak

KUCHING, May 8: It is high time that mankind take better care of nature to ensure its own survival, said WWF-Malaysia Conservation Director Dr Henry Chan.

He added that with the close link between the environment and human health, livelihoods, water and food security, it has never been more urgent that environmental protection, conservation and sustainable management is mainstreamed at all levels of the government and across agencies, and this includes ensuring environmentally sensitive areas are protected and managed sustainably.

“However, while the spread of the current crisis is unprecedented, Covid-19 follows a number of diseases that have emerged in recent decades, such as Ebola, AIDS, SARS, avian influenza and swine flu. All originating from animals, there is increasing evidence that humanity’s overexploitation of nature is one of the factors behind the spread of new diseases,” Chan said in a statement issued here today.

He cited a recent report by WWF called “The Loss of Nature and the Rise of Pandemics: Protecting Human and Planetary Health” which illustrated the link between humanity’s impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, and the rise of certain diseases.

“While many of the links are not yet fully understood, it is clear that our health and the planet’s health is interconnected. Human activities have significantly altered three- quarters of the land and two-thirds of the ocean, extensively changing the planet.

“Illegal and uncontrolled trade of live wild animals creates dangerous opportunities for contact between humans and the diseases these creatures carry. Destruction of wildlife habitats should be taken into account, as it can contribute to the increasing likelihood of the rise and spread of new diseases,” said Chan.

Chan said, if there was anything that humans should and can take away from this pandemic, it would be these healthy natural ecosystems which are essential to human health.

“While it is crucial that we work to protect human lives and well-being in response to Covid-19; the current situation underlines the need for urgent action to rebalance our relationship with nature. Some of the most important actions we can take to reduce the risk of future pandemics are to crack down on illegal wildlife trade and close unregulated wildlife markets.

“Unsustainable wildlife trade is the second-largest direct threat to biodiversity globally, after habitat destruction. Cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade doesn’t just protect species, it helps safeguard people’s well-being and lives,” he said.

Chan reiterated that a new deal for nature and people was needed to reverse the loss of nature as well as protect and restore nature by 2030 for the benefit of people and the planet.

“One of the key elements of this is that governments, ranging from heads of state to ministers, as well as businesses, civil societies and the public need to pool their resources to strengthen the multilateral treaties such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as a new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“These conventions, together with measures to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, will lead to better national strategies for sustainable development,” he said.

He asserted that through a range of conservation programmes, WWF-Malaysia has been working with various agencies, institutions and corporates to ensure that our natural resources are produced and used sustainably and responsibly.

“To that end, we engage with stakeholders along the entire supply chain to be environmentally-sensitive, adopt production and consumption of certified products, as well as enhancing the awareness and knowledge of consumers on the importance of protecting the environment,” he added.—DayakDaily