Chinese authorities have announced that they will improve laws on wildlife protection and strengthen law enforcement responses to combat the illegal trade of wild animals in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
In January, authorities announced a temporary ban on the trading of wild animals across the country, but upon confirmation that the virus had spread to humans from wildlife and originated at a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, authorities have moved quickly to address the issue.
The Wildlife Justice Commission welcomes this announcement to reinforce national legislation to tackle illegal wildlife trade. This is a step in the right direction, and we hope that other governments recognise the importance of this legislative change. Wildlife markets have become hubs for the trafficking of endangered wildlife and are contributing to the extinction of numerous species. It is time to shut down wildlife markets everywhere.
We share our deepest concerns about the global health emergency provoked by the outburst of the new coronavirus and for those directly affected by it.
Regarding the recently issued hypothesis (yet to be confirmed) of pangolins being the intermediate host for the COVID-19, we urge caution as this may potentially cause an adverse effect on a species already under enormous pressure as the target of high-level wildlife traffickers.
Our recently published analysis on the trafficking of pangolin scales highlights that this illegal trade is significantly and rapidly growing year on year. It has become a transnational wildlife crime of industrial scale, driven by organised criminal networks who have the infrastructure and corrupt connections to facilitate the harvesting and movement of huge quantities of scales.
The fight against transnational organised wildlife crime is the primary focus of our work at the Wildlife Justice Commission; it is our mission to support law enforcement and policy efforts to effectively address this issue. We urge governments to address wildlife crime as a serious organised crime and to use an intelligence-led approach, with effective and coordinated law enforcement responses and intelligence sharing to disrupt the networks driving our wildlife to extinction.