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The degradation of nature and the pandemic are linked, how and what solutions?

Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease (zoonosis), i.e. it is transmitted from animals to humans. Its virus has been found in certain species of bats and the pangolin, a mammal threatened with extinction but which is consumed in China and used in traditional medicine.

In May 2020, WWF published a scientific report, "Beyond boundaries", linking emerging zoonotic diseases, nature and human well-being. For example, deforestation is driving wild animals to flee destroyed forests and move closer to cities, villages and hamlets. Contact between wildlife and humans increases the risk of the spread of zoonotic diseases. Over the past 30 years, about 60-70% of new infections discovered worldwide are zoonotic, according to this report.

In Madagascar, the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development said in an interview in May that the lack of income generated by the state of health emergency is encouraging "illegal activities that would have serious consequences for biological diversity... The threats will potentially be exacerbated by the urban exodus triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic".  We already know the impacts of the health crisis on small-scale fishermen and mangroves in the northwest.  Managers of Madagascar's terrestrial protected areas find it difficult to cope with restrictions on movement, which also encourages illegal practices. Between April and July, poachers were arrested by the authorities with stranded turtles in the southwest of the large island.

According to the report "Beyond boundaries", we can reduce the risk of new zoonosis by strengthening nature protection measures. The marketing of wild animals must be stopped and banned to prevent their spread and health risks. We must also limit the impacts of the pandemic on communities that depend entirely on conservation activities for their vital needs. On the economic front, develop economic and social programs and supports that meet the immediate needs of people.

Coronavirus disease has demonstrated the importance of unspoiled nature for humans.  We need to reverse the degradation of nature to reduce the risk of the spread of zoonotic diseases.