The Malang bird market, lots of cages of birds stacked on top of each other in the street

Wildlife & Pandemics

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Wildlife & Pandemics

Born Free firmly believes the commercial trade in wild animals must be curbed, and that wildlife markets, particularly those dealing in live animals, need to close.   For many years Born Free has campaigned against trading in wild animals for profit to protect wildlife in the wild, prevent exploitation and end the suffering of millions of animals.


The coronavirus pandemic had devastating impacts on people and the global economy. It brought into sharp focus the risks that commercial wildlife trading poses to human society. The warning signs have been there for years, but we have failed to learn from past mistakes. We cannot afford to do so again.

Scientists estimate that around 60% of all emerging infectious diseases affecting people are of zoonotic (animal) origin, and around 70% of these originate from wildlife. However, wild animals are not to blame for pandemics. It’s only when we disrupt, exploit, and stress those animals that we create conditions in which disease-causing pathogens can emerge, spread, mutate and then spill over to other animals and to people. The destruction of natural ecosystems and the trade in and consumption of wild animals, whether legal or illegal and whether taken from the wild or bred in captivity, is therefore one of the underlying causes of pandemics.

As the world recovers from covid-19, a return to business as usual cannot be an option. Unless we take strong action to prevent the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases we will be faced with more, and possibly more devastating pandemics.

Born Free is working hard to secure the adoption and implementation of a strong international agreement between governments on preventing, preparing for, and responding to future pandemics. A key focus is preventing the ‘spill over’ of disease-causing pathogens from animals to humans by ending the high-risk situations created when we disrupt and stress wild animals.


The destruction of wildlife habitats, together with our ever increasing demand for wild animals as food, medicines, pets, ornaments, fashion and for a host of other purposes, bring us into ever closer unnatural contact, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

Born Free is calling for an end to commercial wildlife markets and the global exploitation of wild animals for commercial trade.

However, we do recognise that many people currently depend on wild animals as a source of food for their survival. Therefore, while we are not calling for an end to the use of wildlife for subsistence purposes, we are encouraging projects that deliver alternative sources of protein to subsistence consumers of wild animals and offer alternative livelihoods for those who rely on wildlife trade for a living. This can help reduce the risk to human health and wildlife populations.

If you agree action needs to be taken to secure a safer and healthier future for wildlife and people alike, please support our efforts and share these messages with your family and friends.

Further information on Wildlife & Pandemics

A large stack of cages of animals

Vietnam Wildlife Trade Ban

Born Free has welcomed news that Vietnam has banned the import of wildlife and wildlife products, as well as wildlife markets, to reduce the threat of new pandemics.
A macaque sat on a hilltop in Morocco

How do we prevent future pandemics?

We are calling for a global ban on wildlife markets to protect human and animal health, but what work are we doing to make this a reality?
A wildlife market in China with lots of animals in cages

How to ban wildlife markets?

We are calling for a global ban on wildlife markets to protect human and animal health. But, there is no silver bullet solution to a ban.

How will Coronavirus affect conservation?

Covid-19 is predominantly seen as a human health crisis, but its impact is wide-reaching. Conservation efforts are suffering, and this may persist in the long term. Here’s five ways conservation efforts could be affected.
A monkey in a cage

Born Free urges China to ban wildlife trade

Born Free has joined 32 wildlife organisations and conservation experts from around the world to urge the Chinese government to shut down the production of and trade in wild animals in the country.