Strong public support for government efforts to close Viet Nam’s wildlife markets in response to COVID-19, WWF survey finds

Posted on 08 April 2020

Over 90% of respondents surveyed in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong support a government-led closure of illegal and unregulated wildlife markets, according to new research from WWF.
Viet Nam, 7 April 2020, This World Health Day, as the world grapples with the worst public health emergency in recent memory, over 90% of respondents surveyed in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong support a government-led closure of illegal and unregulated wildlife markets, according to new research from WWF.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the link between zoonotic diseases - those transmitted from animals to humans - and wildlife markets into sharp focus. A survey[1] conducted in March among 5,000 participants from Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam found that 82% of respondents are extremely or very worried about the outbreak, with 93% of respondents in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong supporting action by their governments to eliminate illegal and unregulated markets.

Questions remain about the exact origins of COVID-19, but the World Health Organization has confirmed it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from wildlife to humans. The Chinese government announced a comprehensive ban on the consumption of wild animals for food on 24 February. WWF’s research shows that citizens support similar action from other governments across the region. This was the first survey of public opinion about the connection between COVID-19 and wildlife trade undertaken across Asia.

“China has taken great steps prohibiting the hunting, trade, transport and eating of wild animals, and Viet Nam is working on similar directives,” said Christy Williams, Regional Director of WWF’s Asia Pacific program. “Other Asian governments must follow by closing their high-risk wildlife markets and ending this trade once and for all to save lives and help prevent a repeat of the social and economic disruption we are experiencing around the globe today.”
In surveys in Viet Nam, there was a very high response that people are extremely or very worried about the corona virus outbreak. This is not surprising considering the disruptive impact that the virus is having on people’s lives as well as the economic and public health impacts to the country.
However, the report also showed that there was strong support from the Vietnamese public for addressing the root causes of Covid-19 and indeed potential future novel zoonotic disease outbreaks caused by illegal wildlife hunting, trade and consumption. 90% of those 1000 people surveyd were very likely or likely to support efforts by the governments and other relevant ministries to close all illegal and unregulated markets and restaurants that are selling wildlife.
These markets and restaurants are significant potential sources of disease transmission from wildlife to people and should be closed in order to reduce the threat. And the threat is real; 15% of respondents noted that they or someone they knew had purchased wildlife for consumption in the last 12 months. At the national scale, this means that there are large numbers of interactions between wildlife and humans on a daily basis, all of which pose potential risks which could be mitigated by the closure of outlets engaged in the sale of illegal wildlife.
But a change is coming, as 82% of respondents noted that they would not be purchasing wildlife from such outlets in the future. However, continued awareness raising on the risks to reduce consumer demand and policy and enforcement to reduce availability are required to both remove the risk of future outbreaks and ensure that wildlife is protected where it belongs - in the wild.
“It is time to connect the dots between wildlife trade, environmental degradation and risks to human health. Taking action now for humans, as well as the many wildlife species threatened by consumption and trade, is crucial for all of our survival,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
On 6 March 2020, the PM sent a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in coordination with relevant ministries, to draft an urgent directive to strictly ban illegal wildlife trade and consumption in the country. The immediate and decisive action taken by the government of Viet Nam shows a strong response to the current global health crisis, and an opportunity to further demonstrate their leadership in the region in the fight against COVID-19, and in preventing future zoonotic disease outbreaks by stamping out the illegal wildlife trade for good.
“Now more than ever, we feel an urgent sense of responsibility to stop future zoonotic transmissions. WWF stands ready to work with the government of Viet Nam and the relevant ministries to translate the directive into actions and put an end to the consumption and trade in wildlife,” said Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh, Country Director of WWF-Viet Nam.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the current COVID-19 pandemic, along with at least 61% of all human pathogens, are zoonotic in origin - wildlife trade is an aggravating risk in the spread of zoonoses. Other recent epidemics, including SARS, MERS and Ebola, have also all been traced back to viruses that spread from animals to people.
Illegal wildlife trade is the second-largest direct threat to biodiversity globally, after habitat destruction. Populations of vertebrate species on earth declined by an average 60% since 1970, and a 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) concluded that an average of 25% of global species are currently threatened with extinction.   

For more information, please contact:
Nguyen Phuong Ngan, Communications Co-ordinator, WWF-Viet Nam, +84-986117600,
Pangolin, one of the most illegally traded animal in the world.
The pathway of epidemics