Humans are not the only species that is threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Animals are also endangered by both the disease and the way people respond to it.
The problem of bear bile
China’s National Health Commission is recommending the use of bear bile for treatment of COVID-19, and conservationists are concerned.
One of the key elements in bear bile is proven anti-inflammatory, and can be manufactured synthetically without using any animal sources.
Yet, as a component in traditional Chinese medicine, bear bile is still illegally obtained and sold by poachers. Bears are also legally farmed in China.
Poaching bears is a problem all its own, threatening the animals in their natural habitat, endangering wild populations.
(Ironically, the illegal trade in wild animals is often cited as a source new diseases that jump from animals to humans, although bears specifically are not part of this problem; the novel coronavirus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have jumped to humans from bats or pangolins.)
Farmed bears are another problem altogether.
Because they are not used as food, farmed bears are not regulated by recent rules that ban the farming of porcupines and other exotic species for meat.
Nevertheless, the animals are often kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions on Chinese farms. The animals suffer, and the bile extracted via catheters from living animals can be contaminated by pus, urine, feces and bacteria.
Source: National Geographic
Can the great apes be saved?
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo — one of the most biologically diverse places in the world and home to critically endangered mountain gorillas — is closed.
This and other popular African national parks are keeping people away, to try to save the continent’s great apes — mountain gorillas at Virunga, as well as chimpanzees and bonobos elsewhere — from the virulent coronavirus pandemic.
Local economies will suffer from lack of tourist revenue.
But by protecting them from the pandemic, the apes will be spared the ravages of disease, which could jump to them from people.
Great apes and people have 95 percent of their DNA in common.
Ebola in the early 2000s killed thousands of gorillas in the Republic of Congo at the Lossi Sanctuary after transmission from humans.
This time around, governments don’t want to take the same risk with COVID-19.