White Paper - Build Back Better in a post-COVID world – Reducing future wildlife-borne spillover of disease to humans

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We need to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, to better understand the root causes of zoonotic diseases, in order to prevent future outbreaks and support a green recovery.

Approximately 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases today, and almost all recent pandemics, originate from animals and particularly wildlife (e.g. Ebola virus, Lassa virus, and human immunodeficiency virus). Emerging evidence indicates that such outbreaks of animal-borne diseases are on the rise, mostly due to environmental degradation and the intensification of livestock production and trade in livestock and wildlife.

Human-wildlife-livestock interactions are increasing as human populations expand, and urbanization and economic activities (such as wildlife trade, husbandry, agriculture, fishing, infrastructure development, mining and logging) encroach into wildlife habitats. This greater proximity enhances the probability of disease spillover from wildlife to humans, or wildlife to livestock to humans.

In a comprehensive European Union-funded review, policy makers and researchers have reviewed and analysed available scientific information on the causes of zoonotic disease spillover and their subsequent spread. This White Paper aims to provide Northern and Southern Development partners and decision- makers with a better understanding of:

  1. why spillover of disease from wildlife to humans occurs, and why these zoonotic disease outbreaks can spread and become epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19;
  2. what they can do to prevent, detect and respond to future spillover events, with a special focus on priority interventions at the human–wildlife–livestock interfaces.

It has been produced as part of the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme, which is an Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) initiative funded by the European Union.

Required citation:

FAO, CIRAD, CIFOR and WCS. 2020. White paper: Build back better in a post-COVID-19 world – Reducing future wildlife-borne spillover of disease to humans: Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme. Rome.