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‘Born to be Wild’ hosts on wildlife preservation in the new normal

In its two-part 13th anniversary special “Close Contact: Wildlife and the Pandemic,” which begins this Sunday (November 22), award-winning wildlife and environment program “Born to be Wild” delves on how humans and their interaction with the environment play a crucial role in wildlife preservation.

For veterinarian-hosts Doc Nielsen Donato and Doc Ferds Recio, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only altered the lives of people, it became a game-changer for the environment as well.

“Through the years, Born to Wild has evolved in making people understand the natural behavior, importance of habitat, endemic species, as well as the discovery of new species,” said Doc Nielsen. “On our 13th year, times have changed. Because of the pandemic, it will be more challenging for us to do our wildlife documentation.  At the same time, it will be more interesting because we will discover how the wild has behaved when they are left alone.”

He cited the results of having less people outside. “Ever since the pandemic, I have observed that when there are lesser people out in the environment, there are less disturbances and pollution. Both terrestrial and aquatic or marine wildlife have been able to recover and go out to their natural environment. I realized that in wildlife conservation, we just need to give space for them to recover and proliferate.”

Meanwhile, Doc Ferds shares that the pandemic made him understand further the importance of respecting wildlife space. “This includes protecting the habitat where they thrive. Crossing wildlife boundaries (thru wildlife trade, consumption of meat, collecting wildlife by products) can expose us to threats like zoonotic diseases that can adapt and mutate which can potentially lead to a pandemic.”

Viewers have turned to Born to be Wild and to its hosts when it comes to wildlife preservation. As they mark their 13th year, Doc Ferds encourages the public to continue doing their share in saving the environment and the animals.

“The time to act was yesterday. To plant endemic trees, save our forests, protect our seas because that’s where our wildlife live. The next pandemic is bound to happen if we do not act now. We should not lose hope. We can still protect the environment We can still act now,” he said.

For its episode this Sunday, Born to be Wild tackles how human behaviors and practices lead to the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Close contact with wild animals through hunting, trade, and habitat loss, increases the risk of outbreaks. Studies proved that there is a link between exploitation of nature and the pandemic. In the past, the public has already experienced human diseases that originated from animals: MERS CoV, Ebola virus disease, and now, SARS CoV-2 or Covid-19.

In 2014, 10 horses from the Municipality of Senator Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat died.  Because horse owners did not want to waste the horse meat, they slaughtered and ate the horse meat.  After a week, 17 residents showed symptoms of encephalitis, influenza-like illness, and meningitis. Nine of them died.  The Philippine National Epidemiology Center together, with the Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization, went to the area to do an investigation.  It was found that all the victims turned positive of Henipavirus—a virus found in bats.

Considered one of the most trafficked mammals in the world, the pangolin has also been linked to the possible transmission of the Betacorona virus from bats in Wuhan, China.

Locally, Philippine pangolins are poached for their scales and meat.  Believed to be an aphrodisiac, Philippine pangolins which are endemic to Palawan, are now listed as a critically endangered species.  But the hunting continues. In June this year, 20 heads of pangolins were confiscated from a poacher.

Catch the first part of Born to be Wild’s 13th anniversary special, “Close Contact: Wildlife and the Pandemic” this Sunday (Nov. 22) after AHA! on GMA Network. (30)