Could poaching in Mexico spark another pandemic?

Jaguars are poached in Mexico in part to supply East Asian markets. Credit: Juan Pablo Esparza

Will Mexico be the site of the next zoonotic pandemic? In a column first published on Mexico Today, Brookings Institution senior fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown warned that the country is vulnerable due to a growing illegal wildlife trade and deforestation.

Not all wildlife trade is risky, wrote Felbab-Brown, author of The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It, and it shouldn’t all be banned in an effort to prevent another pandemic. “Such a policy would be deeply counterproductive since it would eliminate economic incentives for preserving critical natural ecosystems,” she wrote. “But legal trade in wildlife, a massive global business involving millions of live specimens of wild animals annually, needs to be systematically monitored to prevent the spread of disease to native animal species, domestic livestock and humans. Dangerously, the overwhelming majority of the global legal trade in wildlife, including between Mexico and the United States, is not subject to any disease monitoring.”

In a letter to intergovernmental bodies, The Wildlife Society recently joined more than 250 conservation and development organizations and experts in voicing concerns about pandemic risks but warning against “indiscriminate bans and restrictions.”

Read more at the Brookings Institution.