Animal Conservation in a time of pandemic

Animal Conservation in pandemic, Wildlife conservation is a type of work without end. It’s ongoing. It revolves around time — while racing against it. Pausing amid a global pandemic isn’t an option, because that could mean the difference between saving endangered species or not.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much in so little time. Preventing the spread of this coronavirus has required a collective commitment to shutdowns and social distancing. For conservationists, it’s just yet another time where they must adapt.

FIU’s Institute of Environment researchers are stuck in this strange new reality of unknowns. During the past several months, Hong Liu has been closely monitoring China’s response to the outbreak, including the recent ban of the trade and consumption of wild animals. A conservation ecologist, Liu has spent the greater part of her career in China. Although she works primarily with endangered orchids, she said successful conservation efforts are closely intertwined with China’s wildlife trade.

China is a legitimate producer of millions of farmed “wildlife” for food and fashion. A ban would have detrimental impacts to sustainable trade. In fact, one of the reasons some species aren’t extinct today is because they are farmed in China for the wildlife trade, says biologist Matthew Shirley. An example is the Chinese giant salamander — one of the most endangered amphibians in the world. Conservationists rely on farms that produce the salamanders to repopulate and restock wild populations.

With the ban on the wildlife trade in place, officials in China are essentially starting from scratch. They are compiling a new list of animals which can be considered domesticated and farmed for commercial sale. Depending on how “wildlife” is defined has significant implications for conservation. If certain highly endangered species needing protection don’t make the list, people may no longer see them as valuable or worth protecting. The wildlife trade, though, is only one piece of the larger puzzle. COVID-19 could have sweeping implications for conservation. That’s why Paul Reillo is working today like it’s any other day, though he knows it’s not just any other day. The founding director of the Rare Species Conservatory in Loxahatchee, Fla. has devoted a lifetime to saving species on the brink of extinction. Recently, he and his team counted eight newborn East African bongo antelopes — bringing the total to 45 bongos at the Conservatory. Eight may not seem like a lot. For an animal as critically endangered as the bongo — about 100 remain in the wild — eight is a stand against extinction and a message of hope.

With social distancing now part of the equation, the team cares for and feeds the hundreds of animals in their care in each morning, many belonging to species that are disappearing around the world including the bongos and rare Amazonian parrots. The rest of the day is dedicated to conversations with long-term partners in Kenya to repatriate more bongos, as well as partners in Dominica to plan for continued monitoring of parrot populations as that country’s government responds to COVID-19. 

Reillo is also director of the Tropical Conservation Institute (TCI), a collaboration between FIU and the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation. TCI is unlike other academic institutes, Reillo said, and is designed exactly for situations like the one the world is currently in. It unites conservation leaders, students and researchers to conserve and recover critical species and biodiversity-rich ecosystems by integrating conservation zoology, project implementation and professional development. It’s about solving problems. 

“We don’t stop working just because the world shuts down,” Reillo said. “If anything, we start working faster.”

Throughout his career, Reillo can remember many different world events that interrupted the financial resources and support for conservation projects. Most recently, the Ebola epidemic that began in 2014 decimated tourism in Kenya and South Africa. Reillo is concerned tourism in developing regions could be impacted once again. Loss of tourism and the overall economic impact means funding models for many conservation programs could be in jeopardy, according to Cristina Gomes, assistant director of the TCI.

“We know travel is going to be severely impacted, at least until we have a vaccine,” Gomes said. “This presents serious problems for conservation programs, especially in developing countries, that depend on tourism to support and fund their efforts.” 

Mireya Mayor, director of the Exploration and Science Communications Initiative in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, said she worries about a possible chain reaction as the places richest in biodiversity are often in the poorest countries. If these local economies that rely on ecotourism suffer, people could grow desperate. Animals that weren’t considered food sources before could become food, she said.

The conservationists know it’s too soon to really understand the repercussions or outcomes, but it doesn’t stop them from thinking about it. They continue their work — hands-on, behind the scenes, in collaboration and reaching out across the world. They know if there is a time when conservation is needed most, it is now.

“We’re going to do everything exactly the same as every other day, because we are a life support system for critically endangered species,” Reillo said. “We just can’t afford to have a bad day.”

Wild and captive Blue-throated Macaws are genetically distinct

Captive Blue-Throated Macaws

Captive Blue-Throated Macaws, The seemingly endless lowland savannas of the Llanuras de Moxos in north-east Bolivia are the only home of the rare and elegant Blue-throated Macaw.

With an area of 213,654 km2 these savannas are immense, and their seasonal flooding complicates access for half of the year. Furthermore, Blue-throated Macaws are currently found only in part of the savannas, distributed in northern and southern populations. Thus, it is understandable that even finding them can consume a disproportionately high amount of effort and resources, and at least partly explains why the discovery of the species’ breeding grounds was not made until 1992.

A post-discovery evaluation showed the species to be in fragile condition, and it was designated as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was severely threatened in the past by exploitation for the international cage-bird trade. Breeding sites are on private cattle ranches, where burning, tree clearing and grazing have reduced the number of suitable nest trees and inhibited Motacú Palm regeneration. Hunting to provide feathers for indigenous headdresses probably has had an impact in some areas, recruitment to the breeding population is slow and disease also represents a significant threat. At present the total number of mature individuals in the wild is thought to be no more than 250.

Preventing Its Extinction- Captive Blue-Throated Macaws

To prevent its extinction and help bring about its recovery, from 1995 the Loro Parque Fundación has been the principal supporter of Blue-throated Macaw conservation activities, to date having contributed US$1,945,000 to save it. Measures have included installing a project base of operations, the creation of a Species Recovery Plan recognised by the responsible authorities in Bolivia, defining the current geographical occurrence and regularly monitoring the presence and numbers at known locations. Research has provided key information about its behaviour, ecology, reproduction and natural diet. An intensive nestbox programme is in place, activities to manage an 11,000-ha nature reserve have been supported, and agreements have been made with landowners to protect more habitat. Markets in the main cities have been monitored to deter trafficking. To create institutional and public support, extensive awareness and education initiatives are undertaken. Furthermore, hunting pressure has been mitigated by the involving local communities in the creation of artificial feathers to make the ceremonial headdresses.

These on-the-ground efforts have been paralleled by activities elsewhere. In 1984 the very first macaw chick to be hatched in a controlled environment was at Loro Parque, which continues its involvement as a member of the Blue-throated Macaw European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). The Loro Parque Fundación breeds the species in its international breeding centre and in February 2020 achieved the successful hatching of its 400th chick. The result is that there are sizeable Blue-throated Macaw populations under human care.

Most wild Blue-throated Macaws were exported from Bolivia in the 1970s and early 1980s, and conservation efforts raise interesting questions about how much genetic diversity there is between wild and captive populations. 

A team led by Professor Tim Wright at New Mexico State University is providing answers to these questions by genetic analysis of 66 wild individuals from Bolivia and 54 captive individuals from the USA, Canada and Bolivia. The results show that wild Bolivian populations are genetically distinct from captive populations.

This genetic analysis will help inform ongoing conservation efforts, not least the positive effects that could come from increased gene flow between the wild and captive populations. For example, nowadays the technology and expertise exist to be able to transfer fertile eggs from captivity to wild foster nests and vice versa. Even with the need for disease testing, this would appear to be a safer and less expensive option than trying to augment the wild population with the release of captive-bred individuals, where the disease risk is major and demands the most rigorous screening.

Parrots regularly carry pathogens, which can remain cryptic. Some parrot diseases incubate for many months and some healthy birds are life-long carriers which can transmit pathogens. Given that parrots are typically sociable, disease can spread rapidly. Wild Blue-throated Macaws may be reasonably spaced-out during the breeding season, but regular non-breeding (dry) season flocks in excess of 100 individuals show that they will concentrate in one place from a much more extensive area. Of particular difficulty to screen effectively is avian bornavirus (ABV), known to cause proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), otherwise known as macaw wasting disease, the first recorded cases of which coincided with importations of wild macaws from Bolivia.

In a survey of wild parrots in Brazil, 47% of 86 individuals were found to have signs of ABV infection, PDD, or both. This implies that ABV is likely also to reside in wild birds in Bolivia, and therefore it might be assumed that transmission from captive individuals is less of a worry. However, this fails to take into account that there are now eight described parrot bornaviruses, and these different strains may cause disease differently. If a population has one strain and can cope with it, exposing it to another strain may carry a high risk of causing harm.

Thus, any putative release programme must have a level of testing sophistication which, for lack of knowledge, resources or commitment, is not always available. For example, in 2013 six Blue-throated Macaws captive-bred in the UK were sent to Bolivia, ostensibly as part of a release programme. Records show that disease tests were performed and that these were the typical tests for three distinct pathogens requested by governmental veterinarians to prevent reportable avian diseases to be spread from country to country, principally related to protection of the poultry industry. More than two years later, at the request of the Bolivian Government, expert advice from Europe urged testing for 10 distinct pathogens, including the likes of the highly contagious circovirus (causing Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease), and ABV. It is not known if the recommended testing has yet been accomplished.

Much has already been achieved to prevent the extinction of Blue-throated Macaw, with the genetic analysis a valuable recent addition. Prudent use of this information will continue to protect this icon of Bolivia’s biodiversity.

Blue Macaws – Gardeners Of The Forest

Blue Macaws Forest Gardeners, Better even than Amazon, the blue macaws are a rapid and highly mobile airmail distribution service — for palm seeds. A few months ago, we shared a study about parrots’ wasteful eating habits, which found that approximately half of the foods they handled ended up on the floor (more here). Wasting food doesn’t make much sense, especially in the wild, which raises the question: are there any practical effects of slobby eating?

A new study may provide some clues. A team of researchers studying the two all-blue macaw species has found that these parrots help spread the seeds of 18 plant species in Brazil and Bolivia (ref). They came to this conclusion by direct observations and camera traps that recorded more than 1,700 fruit and nut dispersal events by hyacinth and Lear’s macaws. Both species were found to be effective seed dispersers, despite suspicions that these parrots fully consume all seeds in the fruits or nuts they picked. This finding challenges previously held ideas that the dispersal of large seeds in South America was carried out by now-extinct Pleistocene megafauna.

There are two large all-blue macaw species alive in the wild today: the hyacinth macaw, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, and Lear’s macaw, Anodorhynchus leari. With a wingspan of one meter (3.3 feet), the hyacinth macaw is the largest of all the macaws, and is the largest parrot in the world. The hyacinth macaw has bright yellow skin patches around its eyes and a distinctive yellow patch at the base of its massive black beak. It is found in several discrete areas in central and eastern South America (Figure 1), and is classified as Vulnerable due to poaching for the wild bird trade (more here).

Lear’s macaw, also known as the indigo macaw, is slightly smaller than its darker blue cousin, and is sometimes mistaken for it. But Lear’s macaws can be distinguished from hyacinth macaws by its own specially shaped yellow skin patch at the base of its large black beak, and by the faint greenish tinge to its paler blue plumage. Rediscovered in 1978, Lear’s macaw is rare within its extremely restricted ranges in eastern Brazil (Figure 1) and is Endangered because of poaching for the illegal wild bird trade.

The two surviving Anodorhynchus macaw species have the strongest beaks amongst the parrots, capable of easily breaking open even the largest and strongest nuts produced by a variety of palm trees (ref). But are these parrots consuming all of the seeds or are they behaving as other parrots do by dropping a fair number of undamaged seeds throughout the landscape? To better understand these two parrots’ relationships with the seeds they eat, an international team of researchers carried out dozens of expeditions and placed 35 infrared-triggered camera traps in the Caatinga, Cerrado and Pantanal biomes in Brazil and Bolivia. Whilst there, they recorded 1,722 seed dispersal events (1590 through direct observations and 132 through camera trapping), and observed the macaws flying with nuts for up to 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from where they picked them (Figure 2).

In this study, researchers recorded that both macaw species defleshed palm fruits after picking them from the mother plant (figure 2a) and before transporting the nut to a distant perching site where it was broken open and the seeds consumed (Figure 2b,c). Nuts were mainly dispersed by carrying in a flying parrot’s bill but were sometimes carried in its feet (Figure 2d).

Most of the fruits dispersed (97.7%) were from six palm species, and almost all, if not all of them, could be considered as dependent upon megafauna for seed dispersal. In most cases, the researchers observed primary seed dispersal events (92.6%), where the macaw picked the fruit from the mother plant and moved it to another location. However, the researchers did record 121 instances of tertiary seed dispersal, where the macaws collected palm seeds that had been regurgitated by cattle and goats (Figure 2g,h). Nearly all of these (96.7%) tertiary seed dispersal events applied to just one palm species, Acrocomia totai. After the macaws had flown away with a palm fruit, the researchers located the perches where the macaws handled and consumed the fruits and searched for both damaged and undamaged seeds to compare the proportion of those that survived (Figure 3e), and also looked for germinating seeds and sapling palms. Blue Macaws Forest Gardeners

Trusting parrot loves to cuddle with his owner

Parrots are very social creatures. In the wild, they live in flocks; in captivity, they like to cuddle and be spoken to by their human companions. Not all parrots like to cuddle and it isn’t so much about training than it is about you being in tune with your bird and learn to work with its personality. A parrot’s comfort level with people can vary greatly. Some just like their personal space. If your bird doesn’t like to be touched, you will need to learn how to approach it in order to make it comfortable. Short, frequent sessions are best and don’t overdo it if your bird gets tired. You can always try again another day.

Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot is a silly, smart, and popular parrot who loves to talk and entertain! He knows the names of several animals and likes to make their sounds. In addition to his silly vocalizations, he likes to have conversations with his owners, talking, doing animal sound imitations and acting silly. He also enjoys singing and dancing in some of his video compilations. With his amazing talking abilities and funny antics, Einstein the talking parrot’s videos will keep you entertained for hours! Einstein parrot is also famous for some of his silly quotes and sayings. Online, Einstein, the talking parrot is popular across many social media platforms. Einstein’s favorite places to talk at home is perched on the shower wall, in the kitchen on his drawer, and on his screened-in back porch. As stated on his website, Einstein’s mission statement: “To entertain and bring joy, to foster the human-parrot bond, and to convey that parrots are deserving of immeasurable amounts of patience, nurturing, and companionship.” Einstein’s website, einsteinparrot.com is designed to inform you about the care of parrots and also entertain you. As previously mentioned, Einstein is popular on many social media sites such as YouTube @einsteinparrot, Instagram @einsteinparrot, Twitter @einsteinparrot, and Facebook @einsteintexanparrot. Living with a parrot is a big commitment. Parrots live a very long time.

A parrot such as Einstein can live to be 50 or 60 years old. Many larger parrots like Macaws can live to be 100 years old. They all require a lot of care, proper nutrition, training, time and patience. Parrots need a lot of attention and lots of toys and activities to keep from being bored. Parrots are also expensive, a large cage is an investment and plenty of play perches to spend their out of cage time. Specialized veterinarian care is also required. Most of all they require your companionship and a forever home. Many people decide after the first few years of parrot ownership that the responsibility is too great and the parrots become neglected and sometimes abandoned. When that happens they are sent to parrot rescue facilities to be adopted by a new family or some spend their lives in sanctuaries. It is often said, “Having a parrot is much like raising a raising a 2 to 3-year-old child for the rest of your life!”

Pet Birds And COVID-19

Pet Birds And COVID-19, the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading and affecting lives everywhere. However, it’s not only causing illness, it’s causing confusion and fear. It is an emerging disease, so there is still a lot we don’t know or understand. This uncertainty can be perplexing. It even has pet owners questioning how this could affect their companions. Although there is still a lot to discover about how this virus will act, that doesn’t mean we should be fearful for our pets. Rather, there are things people can do to keep their pets safe and healthy.

Knowledge Is Power

The first place to start is by focusing on what we do know about the disease. COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Viruses are microscopic agents that contain genetic material. They get inside the cells of other organisms and essentially hijack the cells’ operating system in order to replicate more of themselves. The new little viruses then leave the cell and move on to another one to repeat the cycle. Viruses infect all sorts of life, including animals, plants, and even bacteria. Some viruses are very benign to the host cell they take over. Others viruses can cause severe damage and death to the cell and the larger host organism.

Coronaviruses are a group of well-known viruses that have been studied for years. They consist of many different types and have been identified in humans, cats, dogs, pigs, and birds. Bird species found to have coronavirus include pigeons, pheasants, chickens, and turkeys. Typically, coronaviruses are problematic in young animals but mild or asymptomatic in adults. The virus mostly is found in respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, causing problems in these organ systems. Coronaviruses are generally species-specific and infect only one group of animals. For example, coronavirus that infects chickens usually won’t cause problems for humans.

How COVID-19 Likely Developed

COVID-19 is new though, so how did it develop? One of the interesting things about viruses is that they mutate. This means that their genetic material can change accidentally as the virus replicates in a host cell. These changes can make it so the virus can now infect a new host. Or it can make it so that the virus is now more virulent — stronger and able to cause more damage. Research is showing that COVID-19 is likely to have jumped from bats to humans in a live animal and seafood market in China. It then spread from human to human, likely through respiratory secretions like saliva and mucous when people cough and sneeze. Pet Birds And COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 A Danger To Pets?

The question pet owners have on their minds is if the virus could pass from people to their companion animals. The risk of this occurring seemed to be low. However, at the end of February, a Pomeranian owned by a person who was sick with COVID-19 was found to test weakly positive for the virus. The dog was rechecked and continued to test positive for the RNA of the virus. The dog remains free of symptoms though and is negative for antibodies to the virus. This means that its immune system, as of yet, has not recognized or reacted to the virus. The dog is still under quarantine and being monitored.*

Testing by one of the large veterinary laboratories has, so far, found no positive dogs or cats in samples they have analyzed. Testing is still ongoing, so things could change regarding what we know about how COVID-19 affects pets. At this time, COVID-19 appears to be a low risk of disease transmission to pets.

Are Pet Birds At Risk?

When it comes to pet birds, at this time, there is no evidence to support that it could transfer to them. Given that birds and mammals are two largely different groups and the virus is not even transferring well between mammal species at this time, it is unlikely to be a problem for birds. As previously mentioned, coronaviruses are usually species-specific. This makes it more likely that the virus cannot spread from humans to pet birds.

Recommendations From The AVMA

Although the likelihood of transmission is low it never hurts to be cautious, and times like these remind us about the importance of biosecurity. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that people infected with COVID-19 have limited contact with their pets and allow others to care for them until we better understand the virus. The AVMA also recommends against kissing, hugging, and sharing food with pets. This prevents respiratory secretions of infected people being spread to animals.

What Should Pet Bird Owners Do?

Previous viral outbreaks in birds have taught people how to practice good biosecurity. The following are ways pet owners can implement biosecurity in their homes.

Quarantine: Any sick humans in the home should have limited contact with their pet birds until they are healthy again. Likewise, any sick birds should be isolated from healthy individuals. Any new birds coming into a home should have a 30-day minimum period where they are not around other birds in the house. This recommendation is not specific to COVID-19 and is a good rule to live by to minimize the risk of all infectious diseases.

Hand Washing: Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling and interacting with your bird and their accessories, such as their cage items or food. We can easily spread bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents on our hands without knowing it. Simply washing your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds can go a long way to preventing problems.

Monitor for illness and seek professional care when necessary: If you notice your bird is not feeling well, have him or her checked out by a veterinarian skilled in avian care. Even the smallest of changes in their behavior can sometimes be an indication something is wrong. Don’t wait until they are really acting ill. If you yourself are ill with COVID-19, ask a friend to bring your bird to the vet for you.

Cleaning and Disinfecting: Make sure to clean surfaces, cages, and items that have been soiled or have come in contact with biologic items (i.e., feces, respiratory secretions). Many common disinfectants have been shown to be effective against coronaviruses. The CDC lists numerous disinfectants that are useful, including bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammoniums. Read product labels and instructions in order to use them correctly. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide are safe for use around birds, but note that all animals must be kept away from the fumes of products while in use. Pet Birds And COVID-19

Be Prepared-Pet Birds And COVID-19

During times of uncertainty, whether it’s a natural disaster, an economic crisis, or a disease outbreak, it’s good for pet owners to be prepared for both their needs and their birds’ needs. Have stocks of emergency supplies on hand, and at least a two week’s supply of food for all pets. For birds on medications, have at least two week’s medication available, if not more. Have an emergency pet first-aid kit available that includes items like antiseptic cleansing agent, bandaging material, styptic powder, and copies of health records.

In conclusion, COVID-19 may be a pandemic but that doesn’t mean pet owners should panic. Take more control of the situation by understanding how the virus is likely to behave and taking the appropriate measures to be prepared with supplies at home. Also, learn how infected people should interact with their pets. Implementing appropriate biosecurity measures, as is recommended with birds anyway, can help to reduce the chances of serious illness entering our flocks.

Want to Stop the Next Pandemic? Start Protecting Wildlife Habitats

Protecting Wildlife-Habitats in Pandemic, There are four critical facets of pandemic prevention, according to Lee Hannah, senior scientist at Conservation International. Three of them make immediate sense against the backdrop of our current emergency: stockpile masks and respirators; have testing infrastructure ready; and ban the global wildlife trade, including the open animal markets where COVID-19 may have first infected people. Protecting Wildlife-Habitats in Pandemic.

His fourth recommendation is more grandiose: “Take care of nature.” The assault on ecosystems that allowed COVID-19 to jump from animals to humans went far beyond merchants hunting and selling rare wildlife. Biodiversity—that is, the health of the entire ecosystem—can restrain pathogens before they ever leave the wild. “We need to tell people right now that there is a series of things we need to do once we’re out of this mess to make sure it never happens again,” Hannah says.

The role of biodiversity in disease prevention has received increased attention of late. In a 2015 “state of knowledge review” of biodiversity and human health by the United Nations, scientists wrote that “an ecological approach to disease, rather than a simplistic ‘one germ, one disease’ approach, will provide a richer understanding of disease-related outcomes.” Recent research has given more support to the idea that biodiversity protection in one part of the world can prevent novel diseases from emerging and leaping into another. It’s a numbers game, in part. Not all species in a community are equally susceptible to a given disease, nor are they all equally efficient transmitters. In diverse ecosystems well separated from human habitations, viruses ebb and flow without ever having a chance to make it to the big time.

But as people move in, those protections begin to break down. Disrupted ecosystems tend to lose their biggest predators first, and what they leave behind are smaller critters that live fast, reproduce in large numbers, and have immune systems more capable of carrying disease without succumbing to it. When there are only a few species left, they’re good at carrying disease, and they thrive near people, there may be nothing between a deadly pathogen and all of humanity.

“Virus spillover risk” from wildlife to people rises as contact increases between them, according to research published Tuesday by a team of researchers led by Christine Kreuder Johnson of the One Health Institute at University of California, Davis. Almost half of the new diseases that jumped from animals to humans (called zoonotic pathogens) after 1940 can be traced to changes in land use, agriculture, or wildlife hunting. SARS, Ebola, West Nile, Lyme, MERS, and others all fit the profile. There may be 10,000 mammalian viruses potentially dangerous to people.“We are messing with natural systems in certain ways that can make them much more dangerous than they would otherwise be,” says Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “And biodiversity loss is one of those. Climate change is another.” A longer-term strategy can help nations see the benefits of rethinking resource use. “The revenue from clearing new forest is extremely high—briefly,” says William Karesh, executive vice president at EcoHealth Alliance, a research nonprofit. “But the cost to the public-health system also goes up because you get very common diseases like malaria.” And as we’re now seeing, new zoonotic pathogens can be even more expensive to deal with. Despite years of creative and resource-intensive work by governments and nonprofits, companies’ actions to mitigate habitat loss aren’t adding up. Many large companies have pledged to halt deforestation, the largest driver of biodiversity loss, through initiatives like the Consumer Goods Forum, the Banking Environment Initiative and their Soft Commodities Compact. “All have missed the mark,” according to a new report by the Rainforest Action Network.

Hannah, of Conservation International, is working to make sure that the reasons to promote biodiversity, including its pathogen-dulling potential, align with the other endangered elephant in the room: climate change. In February, Hannah and colleagues announced findings on what the effects of achieving climate and conservation targets might be. Using data on 290,000 species, they were able to squint into the future and see where ecosystems might be saved from mass extinction if nations preserve 30% of natural habitats and meet UN limits for global warming. All told, meeting the goals would cut biodiversity losses in half.

The international community is positioned to make some progress. The Convention on Biological Diversity is a 196-nation effort to protect the richness of living things, tap natural resources sustainably, and share the benefits of the environment’s naturally occurring genetic innovations. (The U.S. and the Vatican are non-members.) The next phase of the biodiversity treaty, currently in draft form, proposes that at least 30% of land and ocean be conserved, up from 17% in the previous round. If governments agree to that goal, then nations and conservation scientists must take on the complicated step of figuring out which 30% is most important to protect and how to do it. Protecting Wildlife-Habitats in Pandemic.

The way those areas are drawn today rarely reflects the scientific ideal of how to guard biodiversity. Looking at the existing protected lands, a paper in Nature last month found that 90% of conservation space fails to give bird, amphibian and mammal species the full range of environmental conditions across their existing habitats.

“We could be doing a much better job of getting things in the right places,” says Hannah. “There’s going to be right places for disease control and they may largely overlap the right places for biodiversity.”

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