Veterinarians, wildlife experts applaud China's ban of wild bird trade

February 19, 2004

NEW YORK - (FEB. 19, 2004) -- A group of scientists and veterinarians from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today applauded China's decision to ban trade in wild birds to help prevent the spread of Avian Flu. But the group cautioned that to safeguard both people and wildlife fully, the measure should be made permanent.

Last week WCS issued a statement calling for the ban in wild birds throughout Asia, stating that closing wild bird markets would reduce the spread of Avian flu and a myriad of other infectious diseases. The markets needlessly place tens of thousands of wild and domestic birds in close quarters, allowing diseases to make the jump between wild animals, livestock, and ultimately humans.

Then on Feb. 10th, China's State Administration of Forestry issued an emergency notice banning the hunting, transport and sale of wild birds to prevent the spread of avian influenza. Forestry officials also announced a special campaign to crack down on the illegal hunting and sale of wild birds.

"We applaud the Chinese government for having the foresight to ban the trade of wild birds to help prevent the spread of disease," said Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, WCS director of Hunting and Wildlife Trade Programs. "To fully safeguard both people and wildlife, we urge that this ban be made permanent."

WCS officials expressed concern that if the ban is lifted, it would cause a spike in demand for wild birds, which in turn may result in another disease outbreak. WCS officials also stated that Chinese officials should work to educate people not to poison wild birds, as some have suggested as a means to control disease, since birds play such an important role in maintaining ecological balances, including reducing crop pests.

"The bottom line is that whenever you bring wild and domestic birds, or other species, from wide ranging locations together, then keep them in cramped, stressful conditions, you will always run the risk of disease outbreaks," said Dr. William Karesh, Director of WCS' Field Veterinary Program. "The simplest and most cost effective way to eliminate the risk of further disease outbreaks is to eliminate the trade in wild birds permanently."
-end-
Contact:
Stephen Sautner (718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney (718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

Wildlife Conservation Society

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