Human-wildlife interactions are occurring at an unprecedented scale and intensity. One factor driving this trend, is the global trade in wildlife. While there is a legal trade in wildlife, which is subject to controls and regulations, there is also a parallel illegal trade. This illegal wildlife trade, the trafficking in wild fauna and flora, can have significant adverse impacts on human health, national security and economic development.
In this episode, Felix Wegerle and Manuela Matzinger (UNODC) are joined by Daan van Uhm (Utrecht University) to discuss the illegal wildlife trade in the context of diseases and infections that are transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans, so-called zoonotic diseases.
The episode outlines how the illegal wildlife trade, with its propensity to avoid sanitary controls, can be a facilitator of zoonotic diseases. It shows how wild animals, which would never cross paths in their natural habitats, are now held in close proximity to each other and to humans, which allows for the spread and mutation of zoonoses. Dr. Daan van Uhm describes the clandestine ways in which these animals are illegally traded and the risk this poses to public health, as they avoid important sanitary controls. He also maps out the processes of laundering illegally sourced wildlife into the legal economy.
Furthermore, the episode touches upon several outbreaks of zoonotic diseases throughout the 21st century, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and discusses them in the context of the illegal wildlife trade. Besides, it sheds light on potential policy actions and critically examines recent calls to ban wildlife facilities, such as wildlife markets.
Jane Moore (Faculty)