Unbalancing the scales
Please note: Since this article was published on the 15th of February, worldwide statistics have changed dramatically: Total number of cases 219,365
Mortality rate 9% (19/03/2020).
China has also publicly announced its intention to ban the wildlife meat markets.
On the 15th of February 2020 Zimbabwe along with countries all over the globe will celebrate World Pangolin Day. The pangolin, a scaly, ant-eating mammal, is indigenous to Zimbabwe and 34 other African countries and is infamously known as the world’s most trafficked mammal.
In 2019 the Zimbabwean authorities supported a national awareness campaign on World Pangolin Day. Billboards and posters were displayed in towns and airports around the country informing all Zimbabweans and visitors, that wildlife trafficking is a crime. The ZRP Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit is responsible for addressing the criminal element that is depleting the country’s natural resources. Zimbabwe is one of the most proactive African nations when it comes to enforcing the penalty for wildlife crime and poaching pangolins.
Newton’s third law states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This is relating to physics and the forces on two interacting objects, but right now we are facing a reaction to an action that is reverberating around the world. This Action is related to human greed and the sad business of wild animal trafficking, the reaction is the emergence of deadly and fast spreading new diseases.
There is a strict “balance of nature” this is a concept in Ecology describing how natural ecosystems remain in a state of equilibrium, keeping everything in “check”. All too often man upsets this balance, like poaching and illegally trafficking wild animals. The reaction, in this case – a virus, is nature’s way of screaming for humanity to STOP, but no one is listening.
Packed in cages in wild animal markets are many species of animals that have been poached and trafficked. They suffer unimaginable trauma and cruelty. This upsets nature’s balance.
Enter the Coronavirus in 2019/2020. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause potentially deadly diseases in mammals and birds. There are many kinds of coronaviruses, but only a handful are known to affect humans. Diseases range from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which infected more than 8000 people and killed 813 in 2002-2003, and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus), which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, 2500 people contract it. Its ratio of infection is lower than SARS, but proved deadlier. More than 850 have died from it.
This new strain of coronavirus has infected in excess of 24000 (03/02/2020) people mostly in China. This has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a global health emergency.
In Humans, coronaviruses are typically spread through airborne droplets of infected person’s fluid. It is believed Sars, Mers and this new virus are first transmitted from animal to human, before being spread between humans. It is believed this new virus, officially 2019-nCOV, was transmitted from an animal to a human at a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province in China. Most of the people first infected with the virus had been to the market.
Though the number of people infected has surpassed Sars, this coronavirus is believed to be far less deadly. The mortality rate was 10% among Sars patients, 34% among Mers patients. Right now, available statistics put the virus’ mortality rate at around 2% (03/02/2020). Despite this, the number of infections and deaths have risen every day, sometimes dramatically. The WHO has declared a global health emergency, but it stressed it took the decision to help countries with weaker healthcare systems deal with the virus.
Unfortunately, there are more consequences, to this pandemic. Road, sea and air traffic is highly restricted to and within China as authorities fight the outbreak. Some other countries have also taken big steps and are denying entry to people who have recently travelled to Hubei province, or other parts of mainland China. A few countries are requiring those returning from China to enter quarantine. Sporting events have been cancelled, large factories with big workforces have suspended production, all leading to a large economic cost.
Instead of ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to these global disasters, a plan must be put in place to keep the balance. Regulate markets and clamp down on wildlife trafficking. It is time to stop the reaction, let us all work together keep nature’s balance and let us support the good work being done by authorities like the ZRP’s MFFU and all the other wildlife organisations, in the end it is this work that will keep us safe. The world is a global village what affects one, will have a ripple-effect on us all.