Man has been relentlessly destroying the habitat of wildlife. The wildlife habitats are cleared to pave way for agriculture, human habitations, industries, power plants etc. The benefits provided by these activities are short-lived. Man, through habitat destruction is coming in close contact with lot of wildlife animal species. Many of these species harbour deadly viruses, which could cause pandemics. These virus are jumping from some other species to humans. The ecosystems are degraded which are shaking loose the deadly viruses from their natural hosts. The humans end up becoming their new host. The viruses have transmitted from the animals to humans, resulting in different viral diseases. The diseases which are transferred from the animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. There are many such diseases which have caused the epidemics recently. There is less likeliness of the pathogen transmission from animals to humans, when the animals are present in their natural habitat. But the degradation of the wildlife habitats have brought human and wildlife closer to each other. So the chances of occurrence of diseases become very high. Scientists say that due to habitat destruction the pandemics like covid-19 would become more frequent. As human have come very close to these viruses. The virus transmission is occurring directly between humans and wildlife. These disease pandemics are the cost, we are paying for the habitat destruction. The illegal trade in wild-animals have increased very much from the last few decades. The different organs of the wild animals are in high demand in international market. The poachers are killing wild animals for different organs and selling them to earn profits. While doing so they are putting whole human race in danger. These poachers are most likely to recieve pathogens from these animals and helps it to spread to other humans. The tropical rain forests are very rich in biodiversity. These hotspots are undergoing deforestation due to logging and mining activities. Scientists say that the deforestation would aggravate the spread of the diseases like covid-19. It is believed that preserving the wildlife and their habitat is not just wildlife or environmental issue, it is human health issue. Hence the issue of habitat destruction must be dealt with more seriousness. The people have started to fear the forests, owing to the diseases that have originated there and have affected large native population. Climate change too would aggravate the problem of spread of diseases. As the hotter temperature would increase the spread of the diseases. The high temperature would allow the pathogens to thrive over large geographical areas.The poor people would be most affected by the diseases. They are more prone to disease, as they are not well fed. They won’t be able to afford the treatment. The corona-virus is affecting the poor more, as they don’t afford the treatment.
Research suggests that the animal borne diseases and other infectious diseases like Ebola, SARS, bird flu and now corona virus are on the rise. The diseases are transmitting from animals to humans rapidly. As per the US centre for disease control and prevention, three-quarter of new and emerging diseases found in humans have non-human source. Some diseases like rabies and plague crossed centuries ago from animals to humans. A few like Covid-19, which emerged last year from Wuhan, China and MERS which is linked to camels have emerged in middle-east are new to humans and are spreading globally. The other viruses that have crossed into humans include Lassa fever which was first reported from Nigeria; Nipah from Malaysia; SARS from China, which killed over 700 people. It is believed that the species in the degraded ecosystems contain more viruses, which are likely to infect human beings. In simpler systems the viruses get amplified rapidly. In degraded ecosystems, the species surviving are the ones carrying the deadly viruses. The rats and bats thrive in degraded ecosystems, these are thought of as harbours of deadly viruses. It seems that the disease occurence in humans is negative feed-back mechanism of the ecosystem, in order to prevent the ecosystem from further degradation. The humans are increasing the spread of the diseases by removing the natural barriers between the virus host wild animals and themselves. The threats are present in the nature, but the real damage occurs only when we interfere with the nature. Wet markets where animals are slaughtered, cut up and sold are an important source of pathogens. Pathogens don’t know species boundaries, they trasmit from one species to another. The wet market in Wuhan is thought of as starting point for the covid-19 pandemic. This market is known to sell numerous wild animals including wolf, crocodiles, salamanders, lizards, foxes, scorpions and turtles. It is the wild animals that are natural hosts of many viruses, not the farm animals. Hence there are risks associated with using wild animals as food.
(The author is a Lecturer (EVS) at Govt Degree College Kupwara. Views are his own)