Zoonotic diseases find a haven where humans destroy nature, a major study found

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Zoonotic diseases find a haven where humans destroy nature, a major study found - We The World Magazine

“As we progress into the twenty-first century, anyone who considers themselves a realist will have to make the environment a top priority.” 

—Leonardo DiCaprio

The malevolent desire of human beings is a major threat to the habitat of the fewer left species on the planet. Due to loss of habitat, a large number of predators are going towards extinction, leaving the smaller critters behind to reproduce fast and in large numbers.

The smaller creatures are capable of carrying diseases very efficiently to human habitats, posing, probably, the biggest threat to humanity, a new study finds.

A comprehensive analysis – published in the Journal Nature – conducted on 7000 animal communities found smaller animals like bats and rats were benefited when large swaths of natural forests were wiped to covert them into farmlands.

The study found population of animals harboring ‘zoonotic’ diseases were more than twice in degraded areas, in comparison to the undamaged ecosystem. Also, the proportion of these animals spiked by 70% in degraded environments, the Guardian reports.

The impact of human contribution towards weakening the ecosystem is heavy. The human population on earth has doubled over the past fifty years and has engaged in such activities which eventually threatens biodiversity. 

But humans have never bothered to either think about the fate of the wildlife or ever contemplated that human prosperity thrives on nature’s treasure.  

COVID-19 is just the fruit of the seed of the disharmonized relationship between humans and nature’s law. The need to awaken to accept this reality to which humans have been acting to be blind for decades is highest.

Nature is not to be blamed

Zoonotic diseases HIV, Ebola, Nipah, MERS, SARS, have leaped from animals to humans over the past several years due to severe ecological pressure. 

The onset of COVID-19 has injected the notion – that wild nature is the reserver of zoonotic diseases. However, Richard Ostfeld is a commentary on the study told that this idea is a ‘misconception.’

“[This research] offers an important correction: the greatest zoonotic threats arise where natural areas have been converted to croplands, pastures, and urban areas. The patterns the researchers detected were striking.”

Kate Jones, professor of ecology and biodiversity at UCL (University College London) says that the emergence of fearsome diseases like COVID-19 would surface more as we continue to destroy nature. 

This not the first time studies and researches have come with warning conclusions. In May, scientists from around the world raised alarm over the uninhabited destruction of nature.

Zoonotic diseases find a haven where humans destroy nature, a major study found - We The World Magazine
Zoonotic diseases find a haven where humans destroy nature, a major study found (Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash)

“Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently, spread more rapidly, have a greater economic impact, and kill more people if we are not extremely careful about the possible impacts of the choices we make today,” the scientists wrote in a letter to a top government body.

According to a WWF report, the pandemic of COVID-19 is the direct effect of human exploitation on nature. In response to the present-day crisis, experts need to reform the soil and forest conservation laws and policies to maximize the chance for protecting both people and the earth. 

The report titled – Zoonotic host diversity increases in human-dominated ecosystems – is a first in kind that proved the perils of destroying wildlife and the ecosystem.

The scientists backing the research said disease surveillance and healthcare management must be increased in regions where destruction of nature is rampant.

Why small animals are susceptible to spread diseases

This time the pandemic of coronavirus had stemmed from China, but the future zoonotic disease probably with a much higher risk will emerge from where is known to no one.  

Small animals pose greater risk than bigger predators because of a biological framework, as explained by David Redding, of the ZSL Institute of Zoology in London, who was one of the research team.

He said small animals like brown rats and bats are able to survive and carry pathogens in human-damaged biodiversity is probably because of their small size and ability to adopt faster and produce more offsprings.

Citing the case of brown rats, Redding said the animals’ survival strategy favors a larger number of offsprings against a better chance for survival for each individual.

Hence, as a result, these animals develop a very weak immune system. This is in contrast to an elephant cub, for instance, where they’re probably born once in every two years.

Elephants will certainly develop a much stronger immune system to survive, and in simple words, quality takes over quantity.

We have been warned

Biodiversity specialists have been issuing warnings since March saying that in future if there is no halt to the widespread deforestation and other inhuman activities like poaching, and illegal logging, there would be an outbreak of diseases deadlier than COVID-19.

Countries need to fund for conserving the soil where wildfires continue to ravage the forest and destroy the natural habitat of wildlife.

We need to have a well-planned design to restore the losses caused by biodiversity and create a harmonious dwelling place for all species on this planet earth. 

Let us all remind each other that it is this Earth that we all have in common and hence in order bring change, we should first change our minds.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” ― a prominent figure of India’s freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi, famously said once.