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COVID-19 effects on zoos and animal conservation

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by DelacoursLangur, 6 Mar 2020.

  1. DelacoursLangur

    DelacoursLangur Well-Known Member

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    With the Coronavirus Covid-19 now an international pandemic, I think it is time someone start a conversation about the affects and implications it has on conservation/zoos. There are two main questions to consider:

    Firstly what are the short term affects on conservation projects and zoos. An early example is my local Woodland Park Zoo has shuddered all indoor areas for fear of virus spread. Many countries are implementing travel bans and quarantines which will inevitably impact conservation projects worldwide. It is worth considering the transitional phase we are at with the pandemic, it is still in its early stages. Depending on how containment efforts go it is only a matter of time before efforts switch from containment to treatment IMO, at which point travel restrictions and closures will be lifted, however this may take many months.

    Secondly what will the affect be for endangered species in the long term. The zoological/conservation world is intrinsically intertwined with the origins of this outbreak, namely the fact that it almost certainly originated from wildlife at the Huanan wet market in Wuhan China. These open air meat markets have been a massive problem for both health officials and conservationists for decades. The Chinese government has banned the wildlife trade for now, but so did it during the SARS outbreak before rolling it back later. There is also significant evidence the Pangolins were the transmitter species for the virus (China Focus: Pangolins a potential intermediate host of novel coronavirus: study - Xinhua | English.news.cn), with a 99% match in covid strain. This is not definitive however (When disinformation is a bigger threat than the coronavirus (commentary)).

    It is important for all of us to combat missinformation in these complex times, so please provide sources whenever possible! Here are some interesting reads on the topic:
    China’s Ban on Wildlife Trade a Big Step, but Has Loopholes, Conservationists Say
    Latest on COVID-19
    Opinion | Coronavirus: Revenge of the Pangolins?
    Coronavirus closures reveal vast scale of China’s secretive wildlife farm industry
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opin...not-its-time-crack-down-illegal-animal-trade/
    Unfair press for the pangolin? Brookfield Zoo experts fear possible coronavirus links may further threaten this at-risk animal.
     
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  2. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    I know the WCS has been working hard in China to get the wet markets closed for good and released a statement to the Chinese government at the end of February regarding the steps they should take and the potential loopholes in the current ban that could still allow for the trade of live exotic wildlife. Below is a link to the WCS's video on the virus as well as their page on all their COVID-19 articles/statements-

    Latest on COVID-19

    As mentioned above, pangolins are the most likely culprit for having spread the virus to Humans, but as always bats seem to be getting the blame. Bat conservationists are concerned for the future of many bat species as suggestions such as "Kill all the bats to protect Human health" are becoming more prevalent in some areas of the world.
    Bats Are Being Blamed for Coronavirus. Bat Lovers Are Freaking Out.

    ~Thylo
     
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  3. KevinB

    KevinB Well-Known Member

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    So far I have heard relatively few cases of zoos closing due to the coronavirus outbreak, other than zoos in China, Japan and the Seattle case. I looked up some zoos in the hard-hit Northern Italian regions of Lombardia and Veneto and at least some actually remain open, although I have also found one Italian aquarium that is currently closed. I have read about some other zoos implementing preventive hygiene measures or cancelling/postponing events, which seems like a prudent move. I'm not sure whether it is at this point necessary to close indoor areas or entire zoos, but I understand why people would decide to do so. I also understand why people would want to avoid events or potentially busy public places like a zoo at this time - I myself don't feel much like going to the zoo or any public event or place right now, if I can choose at least.

    That said, closure of zoos during an outbreak is definitely a concern. If zoos were to be closed for weeks or months without revenue or with severely decreased income due to far fewer visitors, they could very well get into financial trouble. That could easily force at least some zoos to not survive economically, and then what would happen to the animals? Additional concerns during these outbreaks and under the resulting restriction could be zoos having to operate on skeleton crews (who might even become stuck at the zoo and away from their families), and these crews becoming exhausted, and disruption of supply chains for animal food. Loss of revenue could also lead to decreased investments in conservation or new exhibit projects.

    I really hope this epidemic does not do great damage to zoos and their conservation efforts, but there is a definite chance it could.

    Here is two additional sources I found on the matter of coronavirus and wildlife:
    China, the coronavirus epidemic and protecting endangered species
    The Novel Coronavirus and Its Connection to Wildlife | Blog | Nature | PBS

    I wish China would finally learn its lesson and stamp out the disgusting wildlife trade going on at these awful wet markets. However the current bans have way too many loopholes still, and the Chinese government rolled back similar measures after the SARS epidemic. This unwholesome tradition is rather ingrained in China, so my hopes aren't high. And there's always the chance these things will continue anyway in illegal underground networks that pose no less or ever greater risk. Good first steps have been taken, but following through on them will not be easy.

    With this epidemic now affecting 98 countries and territories in the world and having caused disease and/or death on all continents except Antarctica I personally feel that other countries and international organizations ought to be demanding of China to crack down harshly on the wildlife trade and the wet markets. In my opinion it would be dangerous and unethical cultural and moral relativism to not demand of China to stamp out their disgusting and destructive tradition of almost every living creature either being a menu item or "traditional medicine". The world has every reason to be angry with China about this and to urge them to prevent another event like this. The world should ask of China to do their part in trying to prevent future zoonotic outbreaks, because as bad as this coronavirus is, the next one could be much worse. I am however not at all sanguine about this, as the world has been turning a blind eye to massive human rights abuses in China for decades, as the country is so important economically. So they probably would be cynical enough to allow Chinese habits to remain a danger to human health on a global scale.

    The impact on the creatures implicated in this outbreak is definitely of concern to me. Halting consumption and leaving these animals alone could be one response, but another response could be hatred towards and calling for the culling of creatures like pangolins and bats. We have already been seeing calls for the latter. Bats especially could really do without yet more bad press, as they already have a bad reputation and have been implicated in most recent zoonotic outbreaks. What I think is needed in this respect are reasonable voices calling for conserving and respecting (i.e. by leaving them alone and not eating them or selling them as fake medicine) these creatures and their ecosystems as important parts of the environment we humans live in and have a duty to protect. It should be made clear that these creatures are not the problem and that they are not inherently dangerous to humans. Unethical practices and abuse by humans are the problem and that is what endangers human health.
     
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  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    International travel is taking a hard hit. How this will effect local zoos is a question mark. I think only a handful of USA zoos truly cater to out-of-town tourists, places like San Diego Zoo and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. March is the busiest season of the year for Tucson and its Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, so when I visit this month I will see if numbers are smaller than usual. However I think most USA zoos, including Tucson's Reid Park Zoo, cater primarily to locals. If people are cancelling travel plans, they may spend more time at local attractions, so the virus could actually boost attendance for local zoos. That's my theory anyway, we will see how it plays out. Please note I am referring specifically to USA, though it may apply to other regions.
     
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  5. DelacoursLangur

    DelacoursLangur Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic breakdown of how these virus's originate by Vox:

    I highly recommend anyone reading this watches it, really comprehensive breakdown of the situation.
     
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  6. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    It is now well-known internationally, the number of people infected of COVID-19 in South Korea is increasing rapidly due to the pseudo religion named 'Sincheonji'.

    South Korean animal rights groups and those who insist on revising the law on zoos cite the incident as a reason for the need introduction of stricter management of zoos.

    This is natural. In the South Korea, cause private indoor zoos, best known in Korea under the name of "Raccoon Cafes," have been rampant here since the 2010s. Me and many animal rights group, and Veterinary professor thinks this places is not different to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

    Because in there, the zoo owner put all kinds of wild animals in one place, and audience can touch and feed all kinds of animals, even they eat food and drinks in this places, where wild animals poop and come up to their tables. So it is no matter when a disease such as COVID-19 occurs, it is not strange at all.

    As I said earlier, I also hope that this incident will make the crackdown on zoos stronger. Korean zoos, especially private zoos, are simply a mess.


    And...I'm worried if COVID-19 transmitted to animals at the zoo, especially to primates. In Korean zoos, so many visitors throw food to animals, even if the zoo says, "Don't give food to animals." And in the case of primates, especially many visitors throw food.

    In particular, Changgyeongwon zoo, and South Korea's first gorillas male "Bond" and female "Gina" were brought in through a Japanese animal dealer from a German zoo in 1970, but they got tuberculosis by tuberculosis patient and died months later. These cases make it quite difficult for me to get rid of my worries.
     
  7. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    I actually started a thread about COVID-19 some time ago, and there was interestingly very little response.

    Pangolins Effected Spread of Coronavirus to Humans?

    Anyone with dogs may know that CaronaVirus is one of the five deadly diseases fought by the standard "Combo 5" vaccination your dog gets every year. Despite the name, this is not strain COVID-19, and thus far, there is said to be little to no risk to animals. I trust that this is largely true for domesticated animals, but my worry would be human-to-primate transmission, which can happen with virtually any human pathogen. Zookeepers caring for primates wear masks and gloves as a rule, just as keepers who are caring for animals with TB; these would still seem to be the most critical points of potential transference, and these species should probably be the first to be removed from public contact.

    Right now, zoo revenue is probably not high on everyone's radar, which may be prudent. First, we can't do much to change attendance as we see how the virus spreads, and second, we will have cold hard data soon enough, from one of the most heavily-attended times of the zoo year--Spring Break. Within a month we'll know if there is a decline in attendance from last year--or if we even want people to be attending at all.
     
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  8. KevinB

    KevinB Well-Known Member

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    I am starting to fear at this point that zoos, animal welfare and wildlife conservation will soon be very far down on our list of priorities as the world tries to battle this extremely scary pandemic.
     
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  9. Buldeo

    Buldeo Well-Known Member

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    They're doing it to themselves. Outside of quarantine zones, blanket bans are terrible things.

    My airline of choice is Korean Air, and since every flight passes through Incheon, I am now banned from entering several countries even though I'd be on the ground for less than two hours.

    All of my original outbound flights were cancelled and rebooked to a different country entirely while my return flights have stayed the same! Korean has no answer on how to get me to my original destination without, like, six connections. I may just cancel and rebook with Singapore Air or go somewhere else entirely.

    It'd be less trouble getting to sub-Saharan Africa at this rate.

    The South China Morning Post put out a fairly comprehensive infographic on China's wildlife trade.

    China’s wildlife trade
     
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  10. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    As is well known, oriental medicine has a belief that eating natural things can make human's body healthy. This was the same in Korea, hundreds of years ago in Korea, there was a belief that strong animal's body parts such as leopards, bears and tigers could be used to treat many diseases - both physical and mental illness.

    But today, Oriental medicine in Korean is strictly banned from using wild animals under the Korean laws and CITES. So in Korea, only the antlers and blood of the farm-breeding sika deer and wapiti are legally wild animals used in oriental medicine.

    Of course, in Korea still a culture about eating wild animals centered on middle-aged men. They has false belief, that is wild animals are good for men's sexual energy. But many Koreans, especially 20-30 age's recognition about them are generally not good, and if illegal activities are detected, they are subject to immediate punishment about Korean laws.


    But as we can see, China is not. They sell fresh wild animals that are captured from the wild, and they also even raise tigers, considered the strongest animal in the East asian culture, in large numbers to be used as their food and medicine.

    I saw a photograph of the many dead tigers found in a freezer about in China's Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Village(熊虎山莊). I was saw that photo nine years ago, but I still vividly remember that. At subway stations in the area where the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Village is located, advertisements are also hung for openly selling tiger bone wine. And China's national tiger breeding facility, the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park(东北虎林园), also sold tiger bone wine.

    While it is certainly welcome news that China has ostensibly banned wildlife trade, I think this can create new facilities for breeding wildlife in large numbers, and will be difficult to prevent the aforementioned mass breeding of tigers. Using tigers for food and medicine would be usually high-ranking and wealthy people, so that is a business china government would get a lot of money.

    More than anything else, several years ago China's Wildlife Protection Law, as far as I know, was thoroughly based on the premise that "human beings can use wild animals." Therefore, I don't know how long it will take, but Chinese people's perceptions about wildlife will must have to change.
     
    Last edited: 8 Mar 2020
  11. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm going to keep this thread strictly about zoos and animal conservation - so have cleaned up a few of the other sub-topics that have crept in.

    Discussion about travel restrictions is fine in the context of the potential impact it might have on zoos and conservation efforts.

    Political discussion is not permitted.

    Political discussion is not permitted other than how it directly pertains to zoos or animal conservation.
     
    Last edited: 9 Mar 2020
  12. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    PS. I have renamed the thread to make it very clear what the topic is.
     
  13. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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  14. AmbikaFan

    AmbikaFan Well-Known Member

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    You've really edited this into streamlined, usable threads. The hidden talents we discover on here!
     
  15. dt644

    dt644 Well-Known Member

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    Um, when I think about it more, there are more wild animals that are often used in Korean oriental medicine besides deer. Among the things that come to mind are the farm-breeding larvae of flower beetles and rhinoceros beetle(Allomyrina dichotomus dichotomus), and softshell turtle.

    There are many species of flower beetles in Korea, but often used genus Protaetia, among them, the Protaetia brevitarsis seulensis is mainly species which breed large quantities on farms to get larvae. The same is true of rhinoceros beetle.

    However, it is also a problem because the softshell turtle, which is mainly used for food, medicine and pets in Korea, is mainly imported from China and Taiwan, but korean native softshell turtle(Pelodiscus maackii) and chinese softshell turtle(Pelodiscus sinensis) are to believed different species. In addition, some argue that if go a little deeper, China imported and bred different species of softshell turtle, so there could be four species of softshell turtle in Korea.

    The Korean government thought that the chinese softshell turtle and the korean softshell turtle were the same species and released the imported softshell turtle from china. They are believed to have the danger of the reduce of korean native softshell turtle because it could lead to the occurrence of crossbreeding.

    Other than the above, wild animals such as hornets, asian buffalo antlers, dried centipedes are still used in Korean Oriental medicine, but they are not universal. The most frequently used are the aforementioned deer antlers and beetle larvae.
     
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  16. KevinB

    KevinB Well-Known Member

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    First of all thank you for your effort.

    On your final point, political discussions not being permitted, I do have a question, namely how do you define when things get political. Because it won't be easy to separate discussions about the Chinese wildlife trade practices from some discussion on the regime of China. Do discussions just have to remain related to wildlife conservation with some political tangents and stay away from outright political discussions about China's regime, or can we not mention anything about China's politics at all?
     
  17. HOMIN96

    HOMIN96 Well-Known Member

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    Bratislava Zoo in Slovakia is from today closed for public as prevention from spreading COVID19. Bit of a rash and hasty decision if you ask me, but if they feel it was necessary...
     
  18. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    It puts me in mind of what we have seen in response to the outbreak of yellow fever transmission here in Brazil which is people actually going out and killing endangered monkeys with shotguns or simply just torching forest fragments where they occur due to misinformation about them being vectors of the disease. This idiotic violence towards wildlife has particularly impacted the brown howler monkey in recent years which is already endangered as it is.

    Environmental education and outreach campaigns have had some success in informing people that the monkeys are not vectors of disease. The key has been to highlight that when these primates start dying they are actually "canaries in the coal mine" in a certain sense because they indicate that there is a problem which will eventually impact people in the area too.

    But even extensive environmental education campaigns in rural areas don't always work and sadly there is always going to be some ignorant "Caipira" (hillbilly / redneck) with a can of petrol or a shotgun who thinks he knows better than scientists and medical professionals about how to "deal" with the issue.

    This is a perennial problem in conservation and when it comes to pandemics and the resulting paranoia and hysteria it can generate (Not to mention the misinformation through lazy and mediocre journalism by the media) is often lethal for wildlife on the receiving end.
     
    Last edited: 9 Mar 2020
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  19. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    I should have clarified in my original post (now edited).

    Political discussion is not permitted other than how it directly pertains to zoos or animal conservation.

    So, you can discuss the Chinese government's policies or actions relating to zoos or animal conservation - but general discussion about their approach to managing COVID-19 or anything else is not allowed.

    This rule is applied globally across the site and not just for COVID-19 discussions.
     
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  20. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    What we have seen time and time again with Covid-19 is these kinds of decisions taken too late and therefore not having the impact they should have. As long as the authority in question can justify their decision and there are steps in place to protect the zoo financially I think this kind of thing is prudent.
     
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