Freeland To Tackle Zoonotic Viral Outbreaks From The Root—Wildlife Trafficking
Freeland, an international counter-trafficking organisation based in Thailand, has a crucial message regarding the climate of zoonotic (animal to human viral) outbreaks. The new coronavirus was a "viral bomb that exploded in Wuhan, China, harming the entire planet," describes Freeland founder Steven Galster. "Its negative impact, in terms of deaths, sickness, and economic disruption was deeper than any natural disaster or act of terrorism in the last 100 years," and while Thailand's management for the pandemic is on the more exemplary side as far as the world goes, the nation is far from the clear of such pandemics.
In a country with such rich zoological diversity, we are unfortunately highly at risk. The WHO estimates that 75 per cent of all new and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and our own doings are to blame for the increasing vulnerability. As a result of rising commercial wildlife trade and destruction of wild habitats, animals are forced into unnaturally close contact with the human population.
"Thailand stands at a crossroad," says Galster, "Will it be the source of a new viral outbreak? Or will Thailand lead the world into creating a permanent, natural vaccine—a 'One Health' approach that involves nature protection." Believing that this is the way to fight pandemics and other ecological issues, Freeland has spearheaded a global campaign, EndPandemics, to treat the root causes of zoonotic viruses. Freeland firmly believes that Thailand can be the global leader in eliminating animal to human infections by banning all commercial trade in wild animals and by expanding and modelling its wildlife protection programme.
Galster also points out Thailand's new wildlife law, passed in late 2019, which made illegal wildlife trafficking more punishable by law. But of course, the region remains a hub for commercial trade in wildlife. To tackle the ongoing issue, Freeland has offered a roadmap that can convert Thailand from a wildlife trade gateway to a global guardian of people and nature through the "One Health" approach. The roadmap includes:
- Banning commercial trade in wild animals
- Helping legal wild animal dealers transition to other livelihoods
- Expanding the successful Thai tiger recovery programme to be a global model
- Reactivating the Thailand-led ASEAN wildlife enforcement network
- Authorising AMLO to seize assets from traffickers to finance nature protection
To learn more about Freeland, visit freeland.org.