Conservation in the time of Coronavirus: a message from BirdLife International
The wider conservation world is also feeling the impact of this unprecedented crisis. 2020 was meant to be the ‘super year for nature’: over the coming months, the world’s governments were scheduled to meet through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Unfortunately, only this week the CBD announced that they have postponed meetings over the coming months, with others moving online.
18 Mar 2020 – By Patricia Zurita
An unforeseen global challenge for conservation
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting every one of our national partners across the globe, whether directly or indirectly. This is a challenge that the BirdLife family is responding to with unity. We are taking action to make sure that our staff remain safe and well, and that every BirdLife Partner feels supported and connected. The disruptions caused by the virus are harmful not only to people and their wellbeing, but also to the crucial conservation work that we do. That is why we are making plans to ensure we can continue to research, campaign and support the invaluable work of our Partners with our usual enthusiasm and commitment.
By protecting nature, we protect ourselves
Quite understandably at the moment, the environment isn’t at the forefront of most people’s minds. However, some may argue that it should be, because biodiversity and the spread of pandemics are closely entwined. According to the World Economic Forum, the increase in disease outbreaks over the past decades is linked to climate change and biodiversity loss. Indeed, there are strong indications that the current outbreak of the coronavirus originated in a seafood market illegally selling wildlife in Wuhan, China, and a line of thinking that the virus has passed during transport or trade from bats, to pangolins, to people. This must be a wake-up call that we need to have greater respect for nature and that the trade of wildlife needs to be tackled.
More widely, climate change also alters the way infectious diseases transmit, and displaces people from their former homes, forcing them to travel to new locations in overcrowded conditions.
Positive actions for conservation
It’s encouraging to see that some governments have already taken action to stop the spread of disease by protecting nature.
For example, in February China introduced tough new measures to address the concern that the virus had its origin in wild animals. These include a moratorium on all wildlife trade, and an unprecedented ban on the consumption of wild animals as food. Whilst the exact pathway of the coronavirus from animals to humans is not yet proven, this move will certainly protect humans from other harmful diseases, as well as being a blessing for wildlife. As part of Restore Species – a partnership that aims to end the illegal and unsustainable trade of wild animals – we welcome this decision and hope it will become permanent. BirdLife has long worked hard to address the illegal trapping and trade in wildlife, and this crisis is a strong reminder about how important this agenda is.
There may be another glimmer of hope: many people like us, who are confined to our homes, may finally have the time they need to think about nature. Whilst the BirdLife Partnership will continue to be active in the field, for birds and people, where we can, we also plan to increase our online presence so that people indoors remain connected to the natural world.
In addition to sharing think-pieces about biodiversity, the virus and the effects of mankind’s treatment of the planet, we will also continue to share positive stories of our conservation successes and the very real difference that conversation makes for nature and humanity.