Dr Ibrahim Goni, the Conservator General of the National Park Service says the consumption of wildlife as the likely origin of Covid-19 should not be left out in the prevention campaign of the deadly virus.
Goni who said this in commemoration of the 2020 World Environment Day celebration with the theme `Celebrate Biodiversity insisted that there is a link between consumption of wildlife and zoonotic diseases.
World Environment Day is the most renowned day for environmental action, celebrated every year on June 5 to focus public efforts on a pressing environmental issue.
Zoonotic diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites that spread between animals and people.
He said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a grip on the world, and Nigeria is not exempted, therefore the need for aggressive campaign of the likely origin of the virus.
He said the media and health workers should not only sensitise the public on how to wash and sanitize their hand while leaving out the information on what brought about the virus in the first place.
“To treat any illness successfully, you first of all identify the root cause of the problem, treat the root cause and the sickness goes away.
“Therefore, the same way it has been thrust into the consciousness of everyone to wash hands with soap, use sanitisers, wear nose masks, maintain necessary distancing etc, is the same way this campaign about wildlife should be pressed.
“The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life’’.
The C-G said that increased and sustained closeness and interaction with wildlife had led to so many Zoonotic diseases ravaging the world, including the deadly COVID-19.
“People still eat and sell various species of dead monkeys, cats, birds, bats, and pangolins, suspected to be at the centre of the COVID-19 scourge.
“Covid-19 is alleged to have originated from hunting, eating and trading in wildlife and this alone should deter people from having close contact with wildlife, but sadly, that is not the case.
“Vampire bats that drink their victim’s blood can transmit diseases, so touching a bat that has a wound, abrasion, or scratch with bare hands, is considered a potential exposure to virus”.
He cautioned that wildlife belongs to the wild and therefore should be left in the wild.
“I advise the public to be cautious when handling animals, especially as pets and for consumption.
“At our parks, we have experts who handle these animals in hygienic ways to avoid direct human contact that can become breeding grounds for existing and emerging infectious diseases’’.
Goni stressed that nature is sending a message to the world and ‘when we respect nature and treat it well it responds well and takes care of our environment’.
“The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature and despite all the benefits that nature gives us, we still mistreat it.
“Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life and it affects every aspect of human life, including natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation.
“Therefore, removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences,’’ he added.
According to him, `when we disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts they will need a new host and often, and we humans are the new hosts.
“It is important for them to understand the links between habitat, environmental damage and the coronavirus.
“They should equally understand that destruction of ecosystems makes disease outbreaks, including pandemics, more likely and that the destruction of nature could be the underlying cause of the coronavirus crisis”.