Blue Planet Live presenter condemns ‘way we manipulate wildlife’

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The mismanagement of the environment and the destruction of natural wildlife habitats have allowed viruses like coronavirus (Covid-19) to emerge, according to a zoologist and broadcaster.

Liz Bonnin, who co-presents Blue Planet Live, described the coronavirus pandemic as an “existential crisis” and blamed the over-extraction of natural resources and the “manipulation” of wildlife.

Scientists believe Covid-19 has origins in animals, likely from bats, and may have come from live animal markets in China.

Previous global epidemics including severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Ebola have also been linked to viruses that spread from animals to people.

Conservationists have already called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to shut down wild animal markets to prevent future pandemics. Some regional authorities in China have recently introduced measures to prohibit the consumption of wild animals in food.

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Bonnin told an event at the digital Cheltenham Science Festival that people needed to lead more sustainable lives in a post-coronavirus world.

“Make no mistake, this emerging infectious disease came as a result of our incessant need for extraction of resources and the way we use and manipulate wildlife,” Bonnin said.

“This particular virus came potentially they think from the Wuhan wildlife markets but what’s very clear is when you destroy biodiversity and degrade habitats, these viruses have fewer species and groups of animals to jump between and therefore can emerge much more quickly out of wild habitats.

“All of this is yet another reminder that if we mismanage our natural spaces, we suffer.

“Whether it be an emerging infectious disease like Covid-19 or our climate change crisis – and the two are intertwined – there’s a lot of discussions about what we need to do differently.

“So when it comes to the lessons that we can potentially learn about doing that life differently post-Covid-19, it is about living more sustainably and not relying on stimulus packages that are going to boost the same industries that are responsible for our environmental crises, the fossil fuel industries.”

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