Will for change
Between 1960 and 2004, approximately 335 emerging diseases were zoonotic and directly linked to habitat destruction and ecosystem disruption arising from urbanisation, environmental degradation and rapidly increasing and moving human populations. With 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases coming from wild animals, the need to tackle what has become a global threat from both a legal and illegal wildlife trade perspective is key.
The global effect of COVID-19 has been unprecedented including health, social and economic impacts on a scale not experienced previously. This is driving a more visible and focused political and social will for change.
Public and private sector partnerships and specialist groups – including the United for Wildlife (UfW) Financial Action Taskforce - are raising their individual and collective voices domestically, regionally and internationally to highlight that IWT is the fourth largest financial crime globally and a crime with downstream impacts of such a magnitude that can no longer be ignored.
Industry bodies have all increased their communication and awareness raising over the past few months and are pressing for real action. Sadly, the expectation is that other zoonotic transmitted diseases are more, not less, likely in the future.
Undoubtedly COVID-19 has drawn new attention to the role of wild animals in the global supply chain. Epidemiological bridges bringing humans and animals in closer proximity are an ongoing threat to both biodiversity and human health. The reopening of disrupted air links risks a return to pre-pandemic demand and supply levels which will heighten the associated disease risk.
It is imperative any response works at an individual, national and international level and includes a holistic, integrated and sustainable model that delivers the protection of endangered species, habitats, health, global economies - and ultimately people’s lives - quickly.
Kim Downs is Fraud and ABAC Lead and Michelle Cantwell is Senior Intelligence Analyst, Financial Crime Threat Management at ANZ