Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Public Overwhelmingly Backs Crackdown on Wildlife Markets to Prevent Pandemics: Survey

By The Irrawaddy 7 April 2020

YANGON—As they grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Myanmar people overwhelmingly support the closure of illegal and unregulated wildlife markets as a way to prevent future pandemics, a new WWF survey on the coronavirus and wildlife trade in Asia has found.

So far, the coronavirus that causes the disease has infected more than 1.2 million people globally and killed more than 60,000. Myanmar had 22 confirmed cases as of Monday, with one death.

COVID-19 is suspected to have originated in Wuhan in Hubei province, China, where eating the flesh of wild animals and using their parts for medicinal purposes are not uncommon.

Released on Tuesday—World Health Day—the Opinion Survey on COVID-19 and Wildlife Trade in 5 Asian Markets (Myanmar, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan) found that 96 per cent of respondents in Myanmar supported the closure of such markets, the highest level of any country. Conducted in early March, the study covered 5,000 respondents—1,000 from each of the five markets.

Overall, 93 percent of respondents said they would support government moves to close all illegal and unregulated markets, while 84 percent said they would be unlikely to buy wildlife products in open markets again, and 79 percent believed closing markets where wild animals are sold would be effective.

Some 79 percent of Myanmar respondents—the third-highest in the survey after Thailand (86 percent) and Vietnam (88 percent)—were extremely or very worried about the outbreak.

While respondents in some other countries were skeptical that a ban on the sale of wild animals would prevent a similar pandemic, 91 percent of Myanmar people who took part in the survey believed differently, followed by 80 percent of respondents in Hong Kong.

WWF-Myanmar Country Director Nick Cox said the survey showed that citizens of Myanmar overwhelmingly support a government-ordered closure of high-risk wildlife markets.

“China is taking steps, as is Vietnam, but now all governments in the region must go further and, once and for all, end the sale and consumption of wild animals and their parts, as exotic pets, for food, and for their perceived medicinal value—for all our sakes,” he said in a statement.

Eating wild animals is a rarity in Myanmar—as the survey showed, with 82 percent of Myanmar respondents saying they had never tasted bushmeat. Furthermore, trade in wildlife is outlawed in Myanmar. Nonetheless, wild birds, rodents and wild cats can be seen for sale in some parts of the country, while lax law enforcement contributes to occasional illegal exports of exotic animals like pangolins and snakes to China.

Some 8 percent of respondents surveyed in Myanmar said they or someone they knew had purchased wildlife in the past 12 months at an open wildlife market, but 80 percent were unlikely or very unlikely to buy wildlife products in the future.

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