Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has a mission to save species from extinction. Durrell Wildlife works with local governments, communities and other conservation organisations in countries across the globe to save animals and their environments. One of many examples of saving animal species from extinction would be that of the Mauritius kestrel. A species once reduced to only four birds, it has been saved from extinction thanks to the efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Trust.
Q: Apart from being pandemics, what do the Black Plague, the Spanish flu, Aids and SARS have in common?
A: They are all likely to have been caused by the transmission of disease or virus from animals to humans.
What is also apparent is that these events are occurring with increasing frequency:
|1957 – 1959||Asian flu||Avian|
|1968 – 1970||Hong Kong flu||Avian|
|1981 – present||Aids||Chimpanzees|
|2002 – 2003||SARS||Bats|
|2009 – 2010||Swine flu||Pigs|
|2015 – present||MERS||Bats, Camels|
|2019 – present||Covid 19||Bats, pangolins?|
Not only will we be living with mutant strains of Covid 19 for many years to come, it is virtually certain that we will have to deal with a new pandemic originating from an animal virus in the next 5 years.
Despite its seemingly devastating impact, we have actually been quite lucky with Covid 19. The pathogen is not carried through the air over long distances, the rate of death and serious disease is quite low and its molecular structure relatively simple to design a vaccine against. What if the next one that comes along is not as benign?
So what explains the ever-growing likelihood of an animal derived disease or virus re-emerging in the next 5 years? It’s not too hard to understand:
- The closer intermingling of humans and wild animals and birds either through the destruction of their habitats or through the appalling conditions in which they are captured and kept for human consumption;
- The intensive farming of domestic animals often in horrific conditions to satisfy the growing demand for protein. The excrement from pigs, for example, can carry pathogens, anti-biotic resistant bacteria and toxic heavy-metal particles;
- Globalisation and migration from rural to urban areas speeding up human-human rates of transmissions.
Chellaram Foundation is keen to support organisations that promote animal welfare and vegetarianism. The trade in exotic animals for consumption needs to stop. The lifelong incarceration, physical abuse and slaughter of 70 billion chickens, pigs and cows to feed us needs to stop. This is not just a moral imperative but also an existential imperative.