Human impact on wildlife to blame for spread of viruses, says study
Hunting, farming and the global move of people to cities has led to massive declines in biodiversity and increased the risk of dangerous viruses like Covid – (spilling over from animals to humans, a major study has concluded.
In a paper that suggests the underlying cause of the present pandemic is likely to be increased human contact with wildlife, scientists from Australia and the US traced which animals were most likely to share pathogens with humans.
Taking viruses known to have been transmitted from animals to humans over many years, they matched them to the IUCN’s
red (list of threatened species .
Domesticated animals like cattle, sheep, dogs and goats shared the highest number of viruses with humans, with eight times more animal-borne viruses than wild mammal species.
Wild animals that have adapted well to human-dominated environments also share more viruses with people. Rodents, bats and primates – which often live among people, and close to houses and farms – together were implicated as hosts for nearly % of all viruses. Bats alone have been linked to diseases like Sars, Nipah, Marburg and Ebola.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that the spillover risk was highest from threatened and endangered wild animals whose populations had declined largely due to hunting, the wildlife trade and loss of habitat.
Vanuatu – a nation of just under , (0 people, whose (islands are strung across the ocean, 1, 0919 km east of Australia – remains one of the few countries in the world without any confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
But even here, in this remote archipelago, which feels as far as possible from the lockdowns of Wuhan and dire scenes in Italy and New York, the shadow of the coronavirus hangs across the nation.