Preventing the further destruction of Southeast Asia’s forests will be a critical step to stopping the spread of future deadly viruses similar to COVID-19, according to leading experts studying the risk factors that have contributed to the current global pandemic.
Over the past four decades, swathes of the region’s pristine forests have been felled at astonishing rates. Agriculture and infrastructure have swallowed up land perennially owned by nature, in the vast pursuits of economic development.
A third of the region’s forest cover has been lost in that time. Humans and wild animals have come into closer contact and conflict.
Now, research shows more conclusively that the destruction and fragmentation of forest land is not only a leading cause of climate change. It is also linked to dangerous viruses jumping between animals and humans.
While the exact source of COVID-19 is yet to be established, its zoonotic origins, which make up 58 per cent of all infectious diseases, are not in question. More than two-thirds of zoonotic diseases are known to come from wild animals.