The Problem

A November 2020 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was “the greatest threat to prosperity and wellbeing faced by the U.S. since the Great Depression.” In the U.S. alone, the pandemic was expected to cost $7.5 trillion in lost GDP, and combined short-term and long-term health costs of over $9 trillion, for a total of $16.1 trillion – an average of nearly $200,000 lost for each family of four in the nation.


But COVID is just the start. If the underlying problems that led to the COVID-19 pandemic are not changed and the rainforests are not preserved, viruses will continue to emerge, making the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be mild and relatively affordable in economic, social, and human/animal/environmental terms.


Wildlife Farms and Viral Infections

Wildlife “farms” in southern China are the most likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wild animals from subtropical rainforests in this region have been bred and sold for food in recent years. Representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) traveled to China in March 2021 and discovered direct evidence that wild animals were being transported to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan and sold. Among the animals transported and sold are bamboo rats and bats. Although the bat is considered COVID’s direct vector from animals to humans from these rainforests through the Wuhan market, other exotic animals are also exploited, and could easily harbor additional dangerous viruses: porcupines, civets, pangolins, and raccoon dogs.


According to Dr. Michael Amusan, one of the Foundation’s advisors, deforestation can be traced as the major cause of most disease outbreaks of the past. Deforestation forces wild animals to leave their habitat and interact with humans, spreading viruses. Illegal timber operations are the main trigger for deforestation.


An August 2020 report in Nature highlighted the direct danger from destroying rainforests and bringing humans into contact with viruses that are native to the rainforest, but not to human populations.


An April 2020 study published by Stanford researchers documented how deforestation and habitat fragmentation caused the spread of deadly viruses in Uganda, as chimpanzees and other primates were forced from their forest habitats into human settlements, and humans left their own communities to go into the forest to collect wood.


Diseases spread from Asian tropical and subtropical rainforest habitat destruction include SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a related virus to COVID (aka SARS-CoV-2) and bird influenza.

Our efforts to build strong forests and healthy communities are making a difference.