The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been urged by conservationists across the globe to take action to stop live animal market.
More than 200 conservation groups across the world have signed an open letter calling on the WHO to do all it can to prevent new diseases emerging from wildlife trade and spreading into global pandemics, reports the Independent.
Scientists have said that the Covid-19 originated from animals – most likely bats – in "wet" markets where live and dead creatures, from dogs and hares to turtles, are sold as food and slaughtered on demand. Previous epidemics have also been linked to viruses caused by hunting bush meat or other wildlife consumption.
Earlier this year, Covid-19 was linked to Wuhan's wet markets; experts worldwide have called for such places to be shut down because of the risk of starting dangerous diseases.
The joint letter calls on the WHO to recommend to governments worldwide that they bring in permanent bans on live wildlife markets and close down or limit trade in wildlife to reduce the threat to human health.
China temporarily banned such markets in February, although there is evidence some sellers have started up again or are dealing online.
Experts also want the use of wildlife, including from captive-bred animals, to be "unequivocally" excluded from the organisation's definition and endorsement of traditional medicine.
Last year the WHO added traditional Chinese medicine, which uses animal body parts, to its influential global compendium.
Conservationists say the WHO should work with governments and international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation to raise awareness of the risks the wildlife trade poses to human health and society. It should also support and encourage initiatives that deliver alternative sources of protein to people who survive on eating wild animals.
The letter, coordinated by wildlife charity Born Free and its Lion Coalition partners, is backed by organisations including the Bat Conservation Trust, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Zoological Society of London.
Humane Society International had presented science-based white paper to the world leaders, warning that Covid-19 is "a tipping point that governments globally must not ignore" and asking governments to help the traders involved to find new livelihoods as quickly as possible.
Without action, "the emergence of another coronavirus-based disease in the future is a practical certainty", the paper says.