Wild Africa Fund has called for urgent actions to curb illegal wildlife trade, deforestation and climate change to reduce the risk of future disease transmissions.
The recent outbreaks of anthrax, monkeypox (now known as Mpox) and Marburg virus in some parts of Africa as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic serve as a reminder that zoonotic diseases continue to pose a significant threat to our health, economies and global security.
Speaking against the backdrop of the celebration of the World Zoonoses Day, the Co-founder and CEO of Wild Africa Fund, Peter Knights, stated that urban customers must stop the consumption of bushmeat to mitigate against spread of zoonotic diseases.
“We must defuse this ticking bomb by moving urban consumers away from illegal bushmeat through education and enforcing laws and preserving what wildlife habitat remains. At the same time we must develop alternatives sources of income and protein for those that hunt bushmeat,” Knights said.
Also speaking, Veterinarian and Wild Africa Fund Nigerian spokesperson, Dr Mark Ofua, stated that Nigeria cannot afford to be the epicentre of the next pandemic.
“As a notable hub for trafficking of illegal wildlife Nigeria cannot afford to be the epicentre of the next pandemic, disastrous in terms of human health and economically.
We must quickly pass the new wildlife law introduced before the election, increase our enforcement and awareness efforts to stop illegal bushmeat trade, to mitigate the spread of zoonotic diseases and to protect our environment.”
On his part, a One Health advocate, Professor Akin Abayomi, warned against consumption of wildlife, saying “Look at what COVID did to the global economy; we’re still recovering.”
He stated further, “If you don’t know what’s out there, you’re destroying that ecosystem, and you’re creating that pathogenicity for humans to encroach into animals’ space to cut down trees and destroy their environment and come into contact with wildlife. If the human population is not used to any particular pathogen, it will have no immunity, which now creates an opportunity for it to spread quickly among the human population. Ebola will kill six out of 10 people. Lassa fever will kill 5 out of 10 people.”
The group, however, quoted the World Health Organization (WHO), that there has been a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks, such as Ebola and monkeypox diseases in the region from 2012 to 2022 compared to the previous decade (2001 to 2011).
The group argued further that Africa faces a growing risk as it grapples with population growth, rapid urbanization, deforestation and the commercial bushmeat trade.
“Across the globe, over 60 percent of human infectious diseases are believed to be spread by deadly germs found in animals. Before COVID in the last two decades, zoonotic diseases have caused economic losses of more than $100 billion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola, Anthrax, Yellow fever, Marburg virus, and Monkeypox (Mpox) are increasingly common throughout Africa and around the world. Scientists say there are about 700,000 unknown zoonotic diseases that can potentially jump from animals and infect humans.
“In the last 12 months, several infectious disease outbreaks have been recorded in Africa and across the world, including these major zoonotic disease outbreaks such as COVID-19 pandemic; Anthrax; Marburg virus; Monkeypox (Mpox); Ebola; Yellow fever and Lassa fever.”