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Jane Goodall says ‘disrespect’ for animals, nature caused coronavirus pandemic

Jane Goodall on breaking boundaries in exploration, science and gender roles
WATCH: After the success of the National Geographic documentary about her life, 'Jane,' noted chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall sits down with Global News to talk about her discoveries and what future generations can do to help preserve Earth's animals.

Renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall has a message for humanity: the coronavirus pandemic is our own fault, and she saw it coming.

She blames humans’ abuse of nature and treatment of animals for the virus that is sweeping the world and has claimed more than 180,000 lives so far.

“It’s because we disregard our place in the natural world and we disrespect the environment and animals that COVID-19 happened,” she told CNet in an interview leading up to the release of her new film, Jane Goodall: The Hope.

READ MORE: Prince Harry, Jane Goodall re-enact chimpanzee greeting in sweet video

“Viruses can spill over onto humans in situations like our intensive farming with animals, and also in the meat markets in Asia and Africa. It’s because of our lack of respect for the environment that this terrible COVID-19 virus has shut down the world.”

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She added that this was predicted “ages ago” in a book by David Quammen, but “no one paid attention.”

“This time, I hope we will,” she said.

Coronavirus around the world: April 22, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: April 22, 2020

“We are all interconnected,” she told PBS NewsHour. “And if we don’t get that lesson from this pandemic, then maybe we never will.”

Her latest film, released on Wednesday by National Geographic, celebrates her legacy and features a collection of never-before-seen photographs and footage spanning seven decades.

It’s believed that the novel coronavirus originated in bats and likely jumped to a secondary carrier animal before emerging in humans at a wet market in Wuhan, China, one of the many niche markets across Asia.

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A fishmonger arranges fish for sale in a wet market in Hong Kong, China, 19 July 2016.
A fishmonger arranges fish for sale in a wet market in Hong Kong, China, 19 July 2016. EPA/JEROME FAVRE

World health experts have long raised concerns about such markets, which offer a wide range of farmed and wild animals for consumption, including bats, pangolins, snakes, dogs and cats.

Chinese officials have started cracking down on wet markets amid international pressure over the latest outbreak, which comes less than two decades after SARS emerged under similar circumstances.

Goodall said she hopes China’s ban on wet markets remains after this is over, and is extended to prohibit the sale of wild animals for medicine, like pangolin scales and bear bile, per PBS.

READ MORE: Jane Goodall on her greatest discovery, and seeing herself in ‘Jane’

“It’s mistreatment of animals and exactly where the next pandemic might come from, if we don’t pay attention to our behaviour,” she said.

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“I pray that we will this time take heed of the message that we’re being given, because this pandemic has been predicted for many, many, many years.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate. Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities. To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

—With files from Global News reporter Josh K. Elliott.

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meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca