China Wildlife Trade Ban Expands to Consumption of Wild Animals as Coronavirus Spreads
China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,700 lives and infected more than 81,000 people, most of them in China, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
A temporary ban on trade in wildlife announced in January was expected to continue until the epidemic was brought under control. However, with the spread of the disease caused by the virus, known as COVID-19, showing no signs of abating, a more comprehensive ban was passed on Feb. 24 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which exercises legislative power in the country.
Some see it as a step toward a permanent ban that would have to be enshrined in the wildlife laws of the country. If passed, it would be a big boost in the global fight against the illegal trade, since China is a major destination for trafficked animals. "If China is able to shut down the illegal animal trade, it will make the world a bit safer from viruses like SARS-CoV, and have a huge impact on wildlife conservation efforts," Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, told Mongabay in an email. "It's a thing that needs to happen, and if COVID-19 is the reason, so be it."
Though the trade in endangered species is banned under CITES, weak enforcement and substantial demand for animal meat and for animal products used in traditional medicines have hindered efforts to control this trade in China. Xinhua cited "the prominent problem of excessive consumption of wild animals, and the huge hidden dangers to public health and safety" as justification for the ban.
Researchers say they suspect the epicenter of the epidemic was a wet market in Wuhan, where wild animals and bushmeat was being sold. The novel coronavirus most likely originated in bats and made the jump to humans. The ban on wildlife trade and consumption is an attempt to limit the exposure of people to wild animals that could carry viruses that humans haven't encountered before and can't effectively defend against.
The suggestion that the new virus passed through an intermediary host like pangolins before infecting humans has brought attention to the illegal trade in wild animals. Pangolins, shy nocturnal animals found in Asia and Africa, are considered the most trafficked mammals in the world. Though trade in pangolins and pangolin products is banned in China and under the CITES treaty, there exists a massive demand for pangolin meat and scales for use in traditional medicine.
China's wildlife laws promulgated in 1989 regulate this trade, but it does not impose a total ban on consumption of meat from wild animals and allows captive breeding for commercial purposes.
The new ban was not introduced through an amendment to the country's wildlife laws, because the legislative session has been postponed in light of the coronavirus crisis. The ban, which takes immediate effect, covers not just wild-caught species recognized nationally and internationally as threatened species, but also the hunting, trading and transport of all terrestrial wild animals for human consumption. It also applies to wild animals born and raised in breeding facilities.
Beijing had already imposed a temporary embargo on sales of wild animals in January. The three state agencies that issued that restriction — the State Administration of Market Regulation, the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration — had warned against the consumption of wild animal meat, but hadn't gone so far as to ban it.
During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-2003, a limited ban was similarly imposed by China, but was later lifted. "The embargo on wild animal trade is a reasonable decision for disease control," said Chengxin Zhang, a researcher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "The Chinese embargo of trading and consumption of civet, the most notable intermediate host of SARS coronavirus, is thought to partially contribute to the disease control and eventual containment of SARS."
Preliminary research done by Zhang and his colleagues, not yet peer-reviewed or published, supports claims that pangolins are a highly likely host, alongside bats, of the new coronavirus and others similar to it. "The involvement of bats, civets, and pangolins in the SARS and COVID-19 outbreak suggests that a permanent ban on wild animal trades by 'wet' markets should effectively minimize future risk of zoonotic disease spillovers," he said.
There is a growing call for China to keep the ban in place permanently and amend its wildlife laws accordingly. Conservationists say they hope a permanent ban and messaging around the dangers of wildlife consumption could dampen the demand for contraband wildlife products. Some surveys suggest that people are now more inclined to support such a ban. "There has been a growing concern among people over the consumption of wild animals and the hidden dangers it brings to public health security since the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak," Zhang Tiewei, a spokesman for the Chinese legislature's Legislative Affairs Commission, told Reuters.
Others fear that such a ban would push the trade underground and make it even harder to track the emergence of new diseases. According to the World Health Organization, almost three-quarters of all epidemics in recent decades have spilled over from animals. There are also concerns that such a ban will face stiff resistance from stakeholders in the multibillion-dollar wildlife trade industry in China, which employs millions of people.
The new ban also calls for better enforcement of existing laws, a long-standing demand from wildlife activists. The group of experts that advised the NPC Standing Committee on possible revisions to the wildlife laws also presented recommendations for finding substitutes for animal products that are used in traditional Chinese medicine, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.
"The aspects of traditional medicine that use ground-up animal parts are entirely based on superstition rather than science, and as the latest outbreak shows, are rather dangerous nonsense," Neuman said. "But tradition is a powerful thing, in China as everywhere else. If the Chinese government is willing to take strong measures to enforce the new rules, they may actually succeed."
Malavika Vyawahare is a staff writer for Mongabay. Find her on Twitter: @MalavikaVy
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
- New Chinese Law a 'Death Warrant' for Endangered Rhinos and ... ›
- Ivory Trade in China Is Now Banned - EcoWatch ›
- China Bans Wildlife Markets Temporarily in Response to ... ›
- Conservation 'Game-Changer': China Removes Pangolin Scales From Traditional Medicine List - EcoWatch ›
- New Clues Help Monarch Butterfly Conservation Efforts - EcoWatch ›
- Monarch Butterflies Will Be Protected Under Historic Deal - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.
- Remarkable Drop in Colorado River Water Use Sign of Climate ... ›
- California Faces a Future of Extreme Weather - EcoWatch ›
Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
- 14 Countries Commit to Ocean Sustainability Initiative - EcoWatch ›
- These 11 Innovations Are Protecting Ocean Life - EcoWatch ›
- How Innovation Is Driving the Blue Economy - EcoWatch ›