Source of virus is not pangolin from SA: Humane Society International

Temminck's pangolin, or the ground pangolin, which is found in SA. Humane Society International (HSI) says its Africa wildlife director never implied that a pangolin from SA was the "host" and carried the coronavirus from SA to China.
Temminck's pangolin, or the ground pangolin, which is found in SA. Humane Society International (HSI) says its Africa wildlife director never implied that a pangolin from SA was the "host" and carried the coronavirus from SA to China.
Image: 123rf.com/Nico Smit

The wildlife director of the African branch of the Humane Society International (HSI), Audrey Delsink, says she made no suggestion that the coronavirus originated in SA.

Delsink and HSU made this clarification on Tuesday following an article in the UK Express  - which has since been amended - which claimed that she named SA as a possible location of where the outbreak’s chain could have begun.

In a statement on Tuesday, HSI said Delsink addressed the global wildlife trade in a recent phone interview with the Express and detailed the reality that pangolins were the most trafficked land mammal.

Delsink also said the pangolins were illegally trafficked from SA to China, to be eaten as delicacies and used in traditional medical elixirs.

In the interview, she also explained that pangolins had been cited as one of the possible intermediate hosts for the virus, to which scientists believe humans were first exposed at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China.

"While Delsink conceded that it is not inconceivable a pangolin trafficked from South Africa could have ended up in a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, where the conditions were such that Covid-19 first evolved, she made no suggestion at all that the virus originated in South Africa," said HSI.

The organisation said the article incorrectly implied that a South African pangolin was the “host” and carried the disease from SA, which was not the view of Delsink or of HSI. It was for this reason that it reached out to the Express UK, requesting for the article to be corrected.

“The trade in wildlife through incredibly inhumane methods is not just an animal welfare atrocity, but it poses risks to public health," said Delsink on Tuesday.

She said scientists have linked the Covid-19 pandemic to wildlife trade - specifically to the consumption of wildlife at a market in Wuhan.

Globally, animals, including endangered animals, were found at wildlife markets, held in close confinement and sold for consumption, fashion, medicine and the pet trade.

"We urge governments to learn from this crisis and to ban the trade in wildlife for these purposes to minimise the risks of future zoonotic (animal-based) disease outbreaks”, said Delsink.

She said HSI, along with many other international organisations, has called on governments to urgently ban in the trade in and consumption of wild animals worldwide.

The organisation last month published a science-based white paper, "Wildlife Markets and Covid-19", addressing the links between zoonotic diseases and the wildlife trade.

It stated that animal-based diseases accounted for an estimated 73% of all emerging infectious diseases affecting humans.

In the paper, HSI recommended that all relevant governments with wildlife markets permanently ban or severely limit wildlife trade, transport and consumption.


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