By David Njagi
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Illegal traffic in live animals is one of the leading causes of zoonotic diseases spread around the world, a new report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has warned.
The report, Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern, lists Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), avian flu, monkey pox and even ebola as some of the diseases which may have jumped species into the human genome.
According to the document, humans are likely to catch infections from animals because a live animal requires a courier to transport it along the value chain, often though secret trade routes.
“The animals may not be quarantined and often make contact with the person transporting them,” explains Jacqueline McGlade, the chief scientist at UNEP.
At least 40,000 primates, four million birds, 640,000 reptiles and 350 million tropical fish are traded globally each year, argues the report, adding that it is the fourth most lucrative black market after drugs people and arms trafficking.
The Middle East is the leading transit and destination for wildlife, where cartels are using technology to pitch for markets.
“It is an industry that now uses the internet and popular social media sites such as facebook and instagram to contact customers,” says the report launched today at the ongoing United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.
Zoonotic diseases are those that are transmitted from animals to human beings, and have widely been linked to climate change.
Latest intelligence collected by UNEP however indicates that crime syndicates are also causing the spread of disease.
“We need to bring together veterinary and medical experts to tackle the spread of zoonoses,” says McGlade.