Covid-19 pandemic unable to stop illegal wildlife trade happening across social media

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The Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to be jumped from bats to humans, is unable to stop the illegal trading and poaching of wildlife.

The trade continues to happen across social media networks, with wild animals sometimes sold as ‘lockdown pets’.

Wild pet trade

The study carried by the researchers from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Western Australia analyzed around 20,000 Facebook posts about the wild pet trade. The researchers further called for increased governance on social media sites in order to curb potential extinctions and reduce the risk of pandemics.

Despite the known risk of the animal to human transmission of disease, the researchers found no clear evidence that the online wildlife trade was decreased amidst the pandemic.

Examining advertisements on Facebook in Brazil and Indonesia, they found thousands of posts advertising wild animals, with a potential audience of over 200,000 people. Only 0.44 per cent of over 20,000 online wildlife trade advertisements had any Covid-19-related content.

Discount offers

The researchers of the study found that no traders or consumers discussed the role of wildlife trade in spreading diseases. Instead, discounts were given, home delivery services were provided, and customers are encouraged to spend larger amounts of time due to lockdown with the animals.

Co-author Anna Nekaris, Professor of Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University said: “We anticipated that we would see many posts mentioning Covid-19 regarding the potential dangers of wildlife trade or using it as a reason for a temporary cessation of sales. Instead, advertisements mentioning Covid-19 often stimulated wildlife trade, suggesting the pandemic was a great time to buy an exotic pet for companionship.”

Co-author Kim Feddema, a Ph.D. student at the University of Western Australia said: “The links between wildlife trade and infectious disease are very concerning, however, what we find is that purely focusing on the risk of transmission as justification for widespread bans may not be effective on the ground.”

Feddema added: “In order to have meaningful change that protects wild species and humans, it is imperative that we take into account the nuance and complexity of the situations and listen to what the traders themselves are telling us.”

The findings of the study were published in the journal Environmental Research.



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