Wildlife trade likely to dominate biodiversity meeting in Rome


Alok Gupta, CGTN

Date Published

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Captive breeding and trade of wild animals — responsible for viral outbreaks — is among the top five threats under discussion at UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) meeting in Rome.

Restoring freshwater and marine ecosystem is at the top of the list. Protecting habitats, migration routes of wild animals and reducing pollution rank second, third and fourth, respectively.

The sustainable level of harvesting, trade, and use of wild species has been ranked fifth. The list includes six threats proposed under a ‘Zero-draft’ for setting target for controlling the global biodiversity loss.  

“Goal five is about making wildlife harvest and trade sustainable as reducing human-wildlife conflict is important,” said Basile van Havre, a co-chair on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

The meeting will start on Monday.

But Li Shuo, a campaigner with Greenpeace warned, the proposed goal on wildlife is like a recipe for further exploitation than a meaningful protection plan. “It follows a human-centric and utilization mindset, which is precisely how the Chinese system failed to prevent the coronavirus from being transmitted from wild animals to humans.”

Various environmental conservation organizations have also been warning about the illegal wildlife trade, leading to the extinction of species and epidemics, costing millions and claiming hundreds of lives.

The ongoing novel coronavirus epidemic has been linked to an unknown animal, possibly pangolins, sold at a seafood market in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

China has responded by banning the wildlife trade and planning to initiate legislative and legal changes to curb the trade. Civet cats’ consumption led to the SARS pandemic in 2002.

Traffic, a global wildlife monitoring agency, reported seizures of 900,000 pangolins, 200 tonnes of African Elephant ivory and 100,000 Pig-nosed Turtles, highlighting the massive scale of illegal trade in South East Asian countries. But a global assessment carried out by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) shocked policymakers. The assessment released last year found more than one million species are threatened with extinction because of human activities.

“We have solutions at hands, particularly nature-based. It’s not too late– to slow, halt and eventually reverse the alarming trend in the decline of biodiversity,” said Elizabeth Mruma Meruma, acting executive secretary of CBD.

The CBD meeting in Rome was earlier scheduled to be held in China. But the coronavirus outbreak shifted the meeting’s venue to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters.

“There would be a delegation from China headed by the deputy permanent representative from UNEP in Nairobi,” said in reply to the question raised by CGTN.  

“We will have active and informed participation from the Chinese delegation in Rome.”

Delegates at the meeting would prepare a framework for protecting global biodiversity post-2020. Around 197 countries signatory to the convention would finalize the targets during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) hosted by China in October.