3 ways the coronavirus is affecting animals around the world

animals

(Scott Walsh, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Josephine Moulds, Freelance journalist,


  • Experts call for a ban on the trade of wildlife.
  • A tiger has a confirmed case of coronavirus in New York.
  • Wildlife are roaming free, while humans self-isolate.

The coronavirus has upended our way of life – but it’s also having a dramatic impact on animals across the globe, too, from the coughing tiger in New York to emboldened goats on the streets of Wales.

 

1. Global wildlife trade is in the spotlight.

The pandemic is thought to have originated at a market selling wild animals in China, throwing a spotlight on the global wildlife trade. The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society is urging governments to ban live animal markets, and stop illegal trafficking and poaching of wild animals.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is urging an end to wildlife trade.
Image: Wildlife Conservation Society

In the wake of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China introduced a ban on all farming and consumption of live wildlife, which is expected to become law later this year.

There are growing calls for countries around the world to ban “wet markets” – which sell live and dead animals for human consumption – to prevent future pandemics. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and Jinfeng Zhou, secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, have added their voices to calls for authorities to make the ban on wildlife markets permanent.

2. Zoo animals are getting sick and missing human attention.

The coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from animals to humans. Now, it seems to be jumping back.

On Monday, news emerged that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. It is thought the tiger, named Nadia, along with six other big cats, were infected by an asymptomatic zoo keeper. The cats have been showing symptoms, including a dry cough, since late March. Paul Calle, the chief vet at the zoo, told Reuters, “This is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since reiterated that there is no evidence yet that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the US.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Zoos across the globe have been closed as part of national lockdown and zookeepers says their most intelligent and social animals – including gorillas, otters and meerkats – are missing the attention of humans. Nathan Hawke, from Orana wildlife park in New Zealand, told The Guardian that many rare and endangered animals continued to show up for their daily “meet the public” appointments – despite the fact there is nobody there to watch them.

Zoo animals’ newfound privacy may have had some unexpected benefits. In Ocean Park in Hong Kong, it is thought that Ying Ying, one of the resident pandas, may be pregnant after 10 years of attempts at natural mating. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the park has been closed to visitors since late January. Michael Boos, executive director at Ocean Park, said, “The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination.”

3. Wildlife is running…wild.

With humans self-isolating in their homes, animals that usually stay away from urban areas now have space to roam. In northern India, a herd of deer was caught on camera walking the streets of Haridwar during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. And wild boar have been spotted in the centre of Barcelona, Spain.

In Wales, mountain goats are causing havoc on the streets of Llandudno.

Wild goats are venturing further into town in Wales.
Image: Andrew Stuart

While rival gangs of monkeys brawled over food in Lopburi, Thailand.

Becky Thomas, senior Teaching Fellow in Ecology, Royal Holloway, says there will be winners and losers from this temporary change in human behaviour. In the UK, hedgehogs are enjoying relatively car free roads, but ducks, which rely on food provided by humans, are going hungry.

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