Humans are decimating wildlife, and the pandemic is a sign, report says

www.washingtonpost.com
3 min read
fairly difficult
The World Wildlife Fund report emphasized that one catastrophic consequence of the declines is now before our eyes, with the coronavirus pandemic caused by a zoonotic spillover that is becoming more common as humans expand their footprint.
The result is dysfunctional ecosystems — bereft of important pollinators, predators and scavengers — less able to support human or animal health, said Rebecca Shaw, the fund's chief scientist.

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The "Living Planet Report," published every two years, is the latest to describe stunning declines in biodiversity resulting from human activity. The United Nations warned last year that 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction. Also in 2019, ornithologists and government agencies reported North America had lost nearly 3 billion birds over 50 years.

But World Wildlife Fund officials emphasized one catastrophic consequence of the declines is now before our eyes. The coronavirus pandemic, caused by the sort of "spillover" of a zoonotic virus that is becoming more common as humans expand their footprint, should be viewed as "an SOS signal for the human enterprise," the report says.

The report "provides unequivocal evidence that nature is unraveling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs," wrote Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "Covid-19 is a clear manifestation of our broken relationship with nature and highlights the deep interconnection between the health of both people and the planet."

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More than two-thirds of emerging infectious diseases in humans have origins in animals, and scientists say the virus that causes covid-19 probably originated in a horseshoe bat, though the virus's precise path to people remains unknown. What's clear is that animal viruses have more chances to hop to humans as we develop formerly wild spaces, fly around the globe, trade in wildlife and intensify livestock production.

"If you start deforesting and are grabbing those animals out of the forest and putting them on trains and putting them on trucks and boats, alive, with domestic animals and humans, you have all this viral mixing," Shaw said. "We're disrupting nature and creating the opportunity for these spillover…
Karin Brulliard
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