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Why Jane Goodall says human disregard for nature led to the coronavirus pandemic

Jane Goodall sees a direct line between the global coronavirus pandemic and humanity’s disregard for and mistreatment of nature.

“We are all interconnected,” the famed primatologist, and a leading voice in conservation efforts, told the PBS NewsHour. “And if we don’t get that lesson from this pandemic, then maybe we never will.”

Goodall’s decades of research into chimpanzees in Africa is the subject of a new documentary, “Jane Goodall: The Hope,” which will air April 22 on the National Geographic Channel. Goodall has also been a tireless advocate for animals and environmental issues, particularly when it comes to how human behavior can disrupt wildlife habitats.

Many infectious diseases that have emerged in our lifetime — Zika virus, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), AIDS and Ebola, among them — have stemmed in some way from human interference with wildlife and their habitats, creating the conditions that allow new viruses, like COVID-19, to spill over from animals to people.

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Initial evidence about how the novel coronavirus first spread pointed to “wet markets” — where live animals are sold — in Wuhan, China. Goodall said it’s “our interactions with animals and the environment” that had led to the global pandemic, and “I just hope that when this is over, we’re wiser.”

Goodall also said she hopes that China’s ban on wet markets holds and is extended to prohibit the sale of wild animals for medicine, like pangolin scales and bear bile.


We mark this 50th anniversary of Earth Day with Jane Goodall, one of the world’s most renowned scientists and environmentalists. Jeffrey Brown talks to Goodall about her career and mission — and the pandemic that has brought modern civilization to its knees.

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Goodall also said officials ought to tamp down animal trafficking because that brings animals in close contact with people at the markets they’re sold.

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

Watch the Newshour’s full interview with Goodall here.

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