Environmental activist, Aili Kang from the Wildlife Conservation Society has reason to believe it will happen in just a few short months.

China’s ban on eating and trading wildlife due to the coronavirus crisis could become law within the next three months, according to conservationists  – and unlike past efforts, it may end up being permanent.

The country’s ruling body declared in late February that it was forbidden to eat wildlife after evidence pointed to a wet market in Wuhan as the possible point where COVID-19 spilt over from animals to humans – though that origin has now been questioned.

In the past, similar bans around the world have faded away after an epidemic has blown over. However, Aili Kang at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) says conversations with partners in China led her to believe the country will introduce legislation within a few months. That is crucial and would mark a big difference to wildlife trade bans after the 2003 SARS epidemic, when there was no change in legislation.

“If it’s not into the law it won’t be permanent. If it is into the law, it will be a further force for enforcement and provide a legal foundation for government to further educate people and alert people to change their behaviour,” she says. A law would mean the ban would likely stay in place for at least a decade, she adds, rather than be dropped under pressure.

Kang says there is evidence authorities are taking the issue seriously, with 10 Chinese provinces conducting operations on captive breeding farms, restaurants and markets since the ban was announced.

Even if China’s ban does last and is enforced, one concern is the problem simply gets moved to other countries. “If one country like China bans you have the risk of leakage of the trade to neighbouring countries. It has to be a ban, not just a ban by a single country but a ban regionally and ultimately worldwide,” says Russ Mittermeier at WCS.

German environment minister Svenja Schulze said it will be important to understand the links between environmental damage and the coronavirus. “Science tells us that the destruction of ecosystems makes disease outbreaks including pandemics more likely. This indicates that the destruction of nature is the underlying crisis behind the coronavirus crisis,” she said in a statement.

Cristian Walzer at the WCS says the pandemic must lead societies to consider the health not just of humans, but of animals and the environment, to avert future crises.

“There’s absolutely no doubt to me that this is really a watershed moment and we can and will see a paradigm shift. There is no going back. In twelve weeks the world has changed completely,” he says.

Original source: https://www.newscientist.com

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