Coronavirus outbreak may spur Southeast Asian action on wildlife trafficking

Governments across Southeast Asia have vowed to strengthen cooperation in curbing the illegal wildlife trade, suspected to have sparked the novel coronavirus epidemic. The issue will be at the top of the agenda at the Biodiversity Conference in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

“What needs to be enhanced is more collaboration to address wildlife trafficking at a multi-country or at the regional level,” said Theresa Mundita Lim of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), an institute under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “The region is ready to step up efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade.”

As of March 3, there were 90,893 reported cases of the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, around the world, with 3,110 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Cases have been reported in 80 countries, but the majority are in China. The virus is believed to have originated from a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan that sold exotic live mammals, including bats and civets — previously linked to the spread of a similar disease, SARS, in 2002.

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Imelda Abano