In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opposition to wildlife markets grows among Asian countries.
With the fear of the occurrence of another disease outbreak like the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, 79% of respondents from selected Asian markets expressed their approval of the closure of illegal and unregulated wildlife markets, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey reveals.
The WWF survey conducted 6-11 March 2020 asked coronavirus-related concerns to 5000 respondents from the following countries: Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
For the purpose of their study, WWF defined “wild animals” as land-dwelling, non-insect animals that are neither domesticated nor part of the livestock.
This opposition to wildlife markets is rooted from the understanding that the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 originated from wildlife though it is human-to-human transmission which has driven the worldwide spread of the disease.
79% of the respondents believe that the closure of illegal and unregulated wildlife markets will have a noticeable impact (“somewhat effective” or “very effective”) in preventing the occurrence of pandemics similar to COVID-19 in the future.
Moreover, 93% of the respondents said that they will likely (“likely” or “very likely”) support the government efforts to close unregulated or illegal wildlife markets.
Some of the efforts that will be purportedly supported by the respondents include stopping eating wildlife products (55%), convincing others to do the same (53%), sharing relevant news and campaigns released by the government (50%), and sharing information on animal protection (49%).
The highest level of support for government efforts on wildlife market closures is recorded among the respondents from Myanmar (96%). This is followed by Hong Kong (93%), Thailand (90%), Vietnam (90%), and Japan (54%).
It is important to mention that Japan is the only one out of the five countries included in the study where wildlife markets are not prevalent. This provides a glimpse on how the opposition to wildlife markets is swayed by the presence of the latter in the community to begin with.
Expectedly, as we can see in the chart above, there is a noticeable difference in the level of support of wildlife market closures between the other four countries — all of which recording a support level of 90% and above — where there are actually wildlife markets in contrast to Japan.
This spike in opposition coincides with the huge share (82%) of the respondents being anxious (“very worried” or “extremely worried”) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the surveyed markets, the highest level of coronavirus anxiety was observed among respondents from Vietnam (88%). This is followed by Thailand (86%), Myanmar (79%), Hong Kong (78%), and Japan (76%). In this respect, we can see that the five markets are fairly consistent with one another.
WWF expects that these wildlife market closures along with coronavirus fears will impact the purchase of wildlife products. Truly enough, 84% of the respondents claimed that they will probably not (“unlikely” or “very unlikely”) buy wildlife products in open wildlife markets in the future.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also calls for stricter measures on wildlife markets in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WHO’s position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards Governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a COVID-19 briefing.