A turtle is captured in a cage for sale at a wildlife market in the south of Việt Nam. Ninety-four per cent Vietnamese public support closing wildlife markets and ending deforestation. Photo courtesy of PanNature
ĐÀ NẴNG – The Vietnamese public is overwhelmingly in favour of the closure of high-risk markets selling animals coming from the wild, a survey has found.
The report by the WWF and research firm GlobeScan found 94 per cent of respondents were very likely or likely to support the efforts by the Government and health ministry to close all such markets.
The ‘COVID-19 One Year Later: Public Perceptions about Pandemics and their Links to Nature’ report also revealed that 87 per cent of Vietnamese people are extremely or very worried about the outbreak of COVID-19
The report builds on the study: ‘Opinion Survey on COVID-19 and Wildlife Trade in five Asian Markets’ conducted in 2020 by WWF and GlobeScan to understand public attitudes and behaviours regarding COVID-19 and future pandemics.
More than a year after the COVID-19 outbreak, the new data shows there is a strong understanding that risky human-animal interaction, often connected to deforestation and high-risk wildlife trade, can lead to serious disease outbreaks, with 46 per cent of all participants listing disease transmission from animals to humans as the root cause most likely to trigger future pandemics.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) recent investigation also points to wildlife as a likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of those surveyed believe that preventing future pandemics begins with addressing root causes, including high-risk wildlife trade and deforestation. People from all five surveyed countries – China, Myanmar, Thailand, the US, and Việt Nam – strongly support government efforts to close high-risk markets selling animals from the wild (85 per cent) and stop deforestation (88 per cent). In Việt Nam, the agreement rates to these matters are 94 per cent and 95 per cent, respectively.
A conservationist approaches a baby langur in a wildlife rescue centre in the central highlands region of Việt Nam. VNS Photo Công Thành
In addition, 85 per cent of respondents in all five countries strongly support or support the ‘One Health’ approach to dealing with future pandemics, with the approval rate in Việt Nam the second highest at 93 per cent.
‘One Health’ is an approach to designing programmes, policies, and legislation where different sectors communicate and work together for better health outcomes across people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, especially for animal health, disease transfer between animals and humans, and combating antibiotic resistance.
Some 39 per cent of Vietnamese participants said they consume less wildlife or have stopped consuming wildlife because of COVID-19 – this figure remains stable compared to 41 per cent in 2020. In Thailand, this rate nearly doubles from 21 per cent in 2020 to 41 per cent in 2021 while the rate is at 28 per cent in China in 2021. However, there remains 9 per cent of participants intent on buying wildlife products in the future in all five countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned people's lives upside down and forced humans to think more deeply about the relationship between people and nature. The only way to prevent future pandemics is by reducing destructive human activities that drive the loss of nature – such as deforestation, unsustainable wildlife trade and consumption - rather than reacting to outbreaks after they have emerged.
“Prevention of pandemics is estimated to cost 100 times less than responding to them. The pandemic has made it blatantly clear that investing in planetary health and nature is the only way to avoid paying such a terrible social and economic price again in the future," said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.
“In July 2020, the Prime Minister of Việt Nam issued a Directive On Urgent Solutions for Wildlife Management, we expect the Government to closely direct the implementation of the directive by rewarding ministries, sectors and regions for good compliance, while strictly handling localities that continue risky practices,” Nguyễn Đào Ngọc Vân, National IWT Manager of WWF-Vietnam, shared.
“The closure of wildlife markets and hotspots being supported by nearly 90 per cent of the people is an opportunity for the Government to eradicate high-risk wildlife markets, the killing of wild birds and deforestation, in order to prevent the source of infection and the risk of future outbreaks,” Vân added.
The results serve as an important foundation for Việt Nam and other countries in the region to consider decisions on closing wildlife markets and closing forests to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WWF is calling on decision-makers to include interventions needed to address key drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks in their pandemic prevention plans. Closing forests and high-risk wildlife markets, for example, will help recover wildlife populations and maintain local and global biodiversity that naturally help regulate disease, as well as help ensure sustainable use of natural resources.
To support the fight against COVID-19, citizens are highly recommended not to buy, sell or consume wildlife products. VNS