Sir David Attenborough backs new conservation crisis fund
Sir David Attenborough has called on nations and citizens to refocus on nature in a way that "respects rather than exploits" as a response to Covid-19, as the non-profit organisation he represents unveils a new $1m 'conservation crisis' fund.
Between 1980 and 2013 there were 12,012 recorded virus outbreaks globally. Factors spurring this trend are various and have been linked to a rise in trade and global connectivity and increased travel. As those factors rise, biodiversity falls, which is the crux of the issue.
Deforestation is linked to 31% of outbreaks such as Ebola, and the Zika and Nipah viruses. It assists in driving animals into human populations and away from their natural habitat, which in turn accelerates the spread of “zoonotic” diseases. Viruses like Zika, malaria and dengue fever have all been accelerated by climate change, according to the World Health Organisation.
In response, many organisations have called for a focus on biodiversity protection to help stem the occurrences of disease outbreaks. Sir David has joined these calls, calling for the creation of a new relationship that “respects rather than exploits the wonders of nature”.
“As the world responds to this pandemic, we must be led by the science, and the science is telling us that the destruction of nature, and encroachment of humans and industry into natural habitats, is making the emergence of new and dangerous viruses ever-more likely,” Sir David, a vice-president of Fauna & Flora International (FFI), said.
“The finger of blame cannot be pointed at the natural world for this crisis, but in our relationship with it, and we must urgently act to create a new relationship that respects rather than exploits the wonders of nature.”
Sir David made the call to support the launch of the FFI’s new Partner Crisis Support Fund. The fund focuses on supporting local conservation groups across the globe, to help rewilding, combatting deforestation and protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
The FFI fund has been seeded with an initial $1m from Arcadia, the charitable fund of philanthropist Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
The fund will be used to support current FFI partner groups located in Vietnam, Honduras, Belize, Kenya and Mozambique.
Beneficiaries of the fund include the Ya’axche Conservation Trust in Belize, which protects more than 300,000 hectares of land home to endangered species such as jaguars and howler monkeys; the Northern Rangelands Trust, a large consortium of community conservancies in northern and coastal Kenya; and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, home to the world’s last two northern white rhinos.
Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio last year led the most comprehensive planetary health check ever undertaken, as part of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The study confirmed that humanity was experiencing worsening health and societal impacts due to destruction of the natural world.
The experts have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could be followed by other deadly outbreaks unless the destruction to the natural world is stopped.
2020 was meant to be a crucial year for biodiversity. National governments met in Rome in February to discuss and reflect on a 20-point UN draft proposal to halt irreversible ecological damage, which looks set to be formally adopted later this year. However, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was set to be held in Kunming in the Yunnan Province in China, which has now been postponed as a result of the coronavirus.