Actor Courteney Cox is blaming the illegal wildlife trade for causing pandemics like the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The producer and director took to Instagram on Earth Day to talk about the importance of protecting the planet.
“Happy Earth Day everyone! By protecting our natural ecosystems, we can stop the illegal wildlife trade which has caused the deadliest diseases of our lifetimes, including HIV, SARS, and COVID-19,” she captioned alongside a photo of herself sitting on a wooden swing.
She continued: “This Earth Day, help Space for Giants protect ecosystems and promote a healthy earth!” Space for Giants is an international conservation organization that works to protect African wildlife landscapes for vulnerable elephants.
Illegal Wildlife Trade And Pandemics
Experts believe the coronavirus is zoonitic—a disease that can spread from animals to humans—and most likely originated from wildlife.
Some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic originated from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China last December. Bats or pangolins, an endangered scaly mammal native to Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, may have hosted the virus before it transferred to humans, according to Dr. Robert F. Garry, professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Further research is needed to pinpoint the exact origin.
Cramped, unsanitary conditions at live animal markets—which are present worldwide—create a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.
Wet markets, a type of live animal market common throughout East Asia, sell fresh produce, noodles, and tofu as well as live and slaughtered animals for human consumption. Many also sell animals obtained through poaching.
Countries Ban Illegal Wildlife Trafficking
As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, China announced a permanent ban on the consumption and trade of wild animal meat earlier this year. Vietnam is also poised to halt wildlife trade and consumption.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to draft directives for a similar ban to be submitted to the government for review last month.
Washington D.C. also cracked down on illegal wildlife trafficking. Earlier this month, the Washington D.C. Council banned the sale of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, Malawi banned the sale and consumption of bushmeat—the meat from wild animals.
To date, more than 2.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. More than 182,000 have died.