Keep high-risk species like rhino off wildlife markets to prevent pandemics – AWF, Kariega

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst of predatory South African politicians, but as the Director of the Kariega Foundation, Lindy Sutherland describes it, it also creates a shift in the focus of many people on what they can do for others, reports Linda van Tilburg. One of them is Capetonian extreme athlete Jamie Marais, who teamed up with the Kariega Foundation to push himself through extreme discomfort and risk to scale a mountain several times and he became the only known person to cycle a vertical ascent of 9,000 metres, which is the height of Mount Everest in the Kariega private game reserve, over 36 gruelling hours in the middle of the Cape winter.  The aim was to raise money for endangered rhinos and to feed the local population around the reserve.  The poaching of rhinos in South Africa has dropped by 50% during the first half of the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to government figures, from 316 in 2019 to 166 in the first half of 2020, but it is feared that poaching will pick up again as lockdowns are eased and borders re-open. Jamie Marais told BizNews about his quest to help the rhinos and the hunger that he believes, fuels the poaching of rhinos.

AWF campaign garners support for Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act

On World Rhino Day, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) announced the results of a global letter-writing campaign raising awareness for new US legislation designed to help regulate legal wildlife markets, close high-risk markets dealing in illegal and endangered species, and prevent future pandemics by curtailing the spread of zoonotic diseases. AWF’s effort in support of the bipartisan bill (S.3759), has generated 24,244 comments to date. A goal of 50,000 letters has been set.

The Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act aims to keep threatened and high-risk species from wildlife markets once and for all to prevent another global health crisis — and protect some of Africa’s most beloved wildlife.

Visit AWF’s online advocacy campaign supporting S.3759, including a running count of the submitted comments.

AWF External Affairs Director Edwin Tambara said: “We know that humans do not need to consume wildlife products to lead healthy lives, but that doesn’t erase that fact that nearly three billion people worldwide rely on wild-caught and farmed seafood as a primary source of protein. Making legal wildlife markets safer and weeding out the bad actors must take the form of pragmatic and smart policies that put an end to poorly-regulated commercial markets pose a serious risk in the spread of zoonotic disease.”

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The bipartisan Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act (S. 3759), co-sponsored by Senators Coons and Graham, aims to prevent future global health crises and, at the same time, will help tighten regulations on wildlife trade.

The legislation creates a framework for the U.S. Department of State, U.S.Agency for International Development, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address high-risk wildlife markets through international cooperation and diplomacy, including coordination with existing efforts to combat wildlife trafficking. This will reduce disease transmission by increasing global capacity for zoonotic disease prevention and detection and reducing human interactions with wildlife in the wild. An equal goal of the policy is to protect and support food insecure communities that currently depend on wildlife.

Tambara said: “Previous pandemics have been linked to unsafe activities at wildlife markets, and while the origins of the current Covid-19 pandemic are unknown, many Chinese patients at the epicenter of the Coronavirus have been linked to a large live animal market, according to the CDC.”

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