Journalists investigating the trafficking of wildlife called for collaboration among newsrooms and various sectors to uncover the complex issues of wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases.
Journalists Patrick Boehler and Jhesset Thrina Enano told participants at the webinar “Covid-19 and Wildlife Trafficking” that the issue crosses borders and requires the cooperation of media and experts from the academe, government and non-government sectors.
Boehler, who is based in Switzerland, is the co-founder of the Environmental Reporting Collective. Enano covers the environment for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The webinar was a joint effort of ACFJ and Internews Earth Journalism Network.
The webinar revolved around the link between the trade in wildlife and zoonotic diseases, or diseases that originate as animal viruses or bacteria and are transferred to human beings. Covid-19, which is believed to have originated from bats, is an example of a zoonotic disease that has threatened the world’s population and caused a massive death toll.
“This is a story that is too big for a single publication, and it’s too big for one newsroom,” said Boehler, who shared his investigations into the trade of pangolins trafficked out of China and Southeast Asia to different parts of the world.
“It’s a trans boundary issue that requires a lot of collaboration not just among newsrooms but also among sectors,” Enano added. She pointed to the need for journalists to work with experts from the academe who have done a lot of research and “have their ears on the ground” when it comes to wildlife issues.
The routes used by the trafficking of wildlife around the hotspots in Asia are the same routes used by criminal syndicates engaged in illegal activities like drug trafficking, making research a risky undertaking, and access to information difficult. But the two journalists noted that wildlife trafficking can also be written about from the business, trade or pricing aspects as well as the law enforcement reports and court records
Boehler and Enano encouraged journalists, NGO and government workers to join hands in investigating the issue. Newsrooms, they said, should share information, ideas, and research, as well as the editing and distribution of stories on wildlife trafficking and zoonotic diseases.
Luz Rimban is the Executive Director of the Asian Center for Journalism and lecturer of the Department of Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University