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Conservation charities today hailed The Independent¡¯s Stop the Wildlife Trade campaign and called for urgent action to be taken by the international community to support it.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Dr Jill Robinson MBE, warned that the coronavirus crisis had shown the risk of the trade in enabling pandemics.

¡°From SARS to Covid-19, from Ebola to MERS, to HIV ¨C the global wildlife trade has its roots in every one of these infections,¡± she said. ¡°We thank The Independent for bringing this critical issue to the world's attention.

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¡°We must close the vile live animal markets while helping those whose livelihoods have depended on such places with new business opportunities. The investment we make today will mitigate the economic consequences of yet another failure in the future, unless we act now.¡±

Ben Williamson, Program Director of World Animal Protection US, warned: ¡°Every day, thousands of wild animals are poached, farmed and sold into the global multi-billion-dollar legal commercial trade. The horrific conditions they face cause much suffering for every animal involved and are a threat for future pandemics.¡±

Gregg Tully, executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), said: ¡°If we can learn anything from COVID-19, it¡¯s that our wellbeing is connected to wildlife.From closing live and online markets to renegotiating trade agreements, all the way to developing localized alternative livelihood opportunities with impacted communities, we must work hard to find new solutions. Our lives depend on it.

"We¡¯re incredibly excited to see The Independent and London Evening Standard make this issue a focal point as we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic.¡±

The Stop The Wildlife Trade campaign, launched by proprietor Evgeny Lebedev and expanding today into The Independent¡¯s sister title the Evening Standard, calls for an end to high-risk wildlife markets and for an international effort to regulate the trade to reduce our risk of future pandemics.

Mr Lebedev also today announced the campaign¡¯s partnership with the international conservation charity Space For Giants to help deliver these objectives.

Dr Max Graham, Space for Giants founder and CEO, welcomed the partnership, saying: ¡°Covid-19 has made clear the link between our treatment of wildlife and wild places and the risk of deadly and devastating disease.

"In the ashes of this crisis we have a historic opportunity to reset our relationship with the natural world and prevent the emergence of another pandemic.

"It is a great honour, therefore, to support The Independent¡¯s campaign and I am confident that by combining forces we will contribute to a new set of rules to end the trade and use of wild products that threaten our collective future.¡±

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