Wildlife trade is the fourth-largest illegal trade globally – assumed to be worth £15 billion annually
The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated from a wet market in the city of Wuhan, China, famous for selling rare wildlife. Several reports claim that the virus was first transmitted to the human body when a person consumed pangolin, an endangered animal, from that market – and fell sick from the transmitted virus.
Zoonotic diseases are those transmitted from animals to the human body. The novel coronavirus, a disease of zoonotic origin, has now confined nearly the entire human race to their homes for an indefinite period of time.
However, this is not the first time that humans have been infected by viruses transmitted from wild animals.
In 2002, the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic originated from an animal – the civet cat.
This did not prove a lesson for humans. The exploitation of wild animals remained high over the years and wildlife trafficking increased.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) wrote, in a report published in 2018, that wildlife has decreased by 60 percent in the last four decades.
Wildlife trade has been declared the fourth-largest illegal trade – behind drugs, human trafficking and people-smuggling plus counterfeiting. The trade is assumed to be worth £15 billion annually.
Where does Bangladesh stand in this trade?
Most people in Bangladesh are not very fond of wild animals as a part of their cuisine though tortoise is considered a delicacy in some areas.
There is no open market for wildlife in big cities though some undercover sales take place. Bangladesh is also used as a corridor for wildlife trafficking.
The Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) of the Bangladesh Forest Department recorded 438 cases of wildlife trafficking till the end of 2019.
Last October, law enforcement recovered 288 wild animals from an undercover shop in Dhaka city.
Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), a nonprofit organisation, informed The Business Standard that the Indian flapshell turtle and vulnerable peacock softshell turtle are frequently poached and trafficked from Bangladesh to meet the demand of India's wildlife market. Their prices range from 600 to 1,500 rupees per kilogramme, in India.
Shahriar Caesar Rahman, the chief executive officer of CCA, thinks it is high time we concentrate on reducing wildlife exploitation.
He said there was a time when we ignored what happened to pangolins in Bandarban – thinking it was too far away to affect us in Dhaka.
"Such negligence has collectively worried the entire world over who consumed a pangolin in China. This pandemic is a reminder that we all are tied to the same thread and we simply cannot ignore nature," he said.
"We must realise the significance and importance of nature and wildlife," he added.
Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA) prioritises educating people for a sustainable result. The organisation has been putting this in action working on a tortoise conservation programme, since 2011, in the forest.
"Wildlife conservation is a long process. We need money and perseverance for that. However, funds for conservation are being cancelled with the outbreak of Coronavirus – for obvious economic reasons," said Shahriar Caesar.
"I hope we will overcome this pandemic together and resume all conservation programmes. If we do not do so – if we do not realise the necessity of nature and wildlife – such pandemics will keep breaking out in the future," he added.