Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 29, 2020


Tanya Sanerib, (206) 379-7363,

International Report Calls Out United States for Driving Wildlife Trade

Human Ecological Disruption, Consumption Drive Pandemic Risk

WASHINGTON— A panel of international experts today linked zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 to “unsustainable exploitation of the environment,” including the wildlife trade and land-use change. The new findings echo a recent Center for Biological Diversity report.

Today’s IPBES report specifically calls out the United States for its role in driving the wildlife trade, noting that the country is “one of the largest legal importers of wildlife with 10-20 million individual wild animals (terrestrial and marine) imported each year, largely for the pet trade,” with shipments on the rise, which has led to the introduction of novel zoonotic diseases like monkeypox.

“This alarming report should push the U.S. to shut down the commercial wildlife trade, which increases human disease risks and threatens imperiled animals around the globe,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center. “As we struggle with the current pandemic, we have to find a path to a green recovery. U.S. lawmakers are starting to grapple with the huge risks of the wildlife trade, and we need to move quickly to reduce the risk of another pandemic triggered by our exploitation of animals.”

Recently introduced bipartisan Senate and House bills would prohibit the import and export of live wildlife for human consumption or medicine. The “Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020” would also end U.S. live wildlife markets and spur international action and collaboration. These bills are an excellent first step, but further action is needed to bring about transformative change as noted in the Center’s Action Plan to Prevent Future Pandemics.

The IPBES in a 2019 assessment identified wildlife exploitation as the primary driver of marine species loss and the secondary driver of terrestrial species loss. The assessment noted that we stand to lose one million species in the coming decades unless we change business as usual. The report issued today echoes this call for transformative change and encourages a green recovery in response to COVID-19.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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