Written By Sarah Shamim
Edited by Ayesha Imtiaz
As Covid-19 takes the world by storm, more and more people are paying closer attention to the scientific idea that a majority of viral infections such as HIV, SARS, and Ebola are zoonotic. For a disease to be zoonotic means for it to jump from animals to humans.
It is speculated that a relationship exists between human activity such as deforestation and the spillover of such viruses.
According to an opinion piece by experts, possibly the biggest misconception to exist about deforestation would be that the loss of forests always leads to a disruption in habitat and a loss of wildlife population in an area.
However, that isn’t always the case. Anthropized land can sometimes offer animals like bats with very ideal environments to thrive. Examples of how human activity enables bats to thrive include how houses and barns act as shelter for cave-dwelling bats and light from houses attracts insects which serves as easy prey for the bats.
The idea that deforestation enables some diseases to spread is supported by the president of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak. Peter further dissected what diseases in specific are spread by deforestation as he mentioned malaria and dengue.
This goes to show that not only bats but also mosquitos can rapidly spread diseases to humans upon deforestation. An example of this has already been seen in Malaysian Borneo. According to National Geographic, between 2003 and 2015, on average, an estimated 10 percent yearly increase in forest loss led to a 3 percent rise in malaria cases.
It is a well-administered fact that there is a direct relationship between the proliferation of disease and the loss in forested land. The lack of awareness prevents necessary action to prevent the complex series of events that lead to zoonotic spillovers from occurring time and time again.