This World Wildlife Day, read this recent interview with WildAid Ambassador, ‘Note’ Watcharabul Leesuwan, as he shares his passion for wildlife conservation and explains why it is now more important than ever that we maintain our distance from wildlife in order for us to co-exist in harmony.
I have always felt a close connection to nature and wildlife. Growing up, I loved watching wildlife documentaries and reading books about the environment. My heroes are conservationists, as I admire their dedication towards making our planet a better place. I’ve worked closely with Thai conservation organizations such as Seub Nakhasathien Foundation and now I’m honored to join WildAid as an ambassador to fight to end the illegal wildlife trade and to prevent future pandemics.
Over my 10 years photographing Thailand’s wildlife, one lesson I’ve learned is the importance of maintaining our distance from wildlife for us to co-exist in harmony. There is beauty when nature is uninterrupted and I have been fortunate to experience what this is like. I had the opportunity to photograph wildlife in Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary and spotted two tigers playing by the stream, an extremely rare sight. Perhaps it was a gift from the spirits of the forests and mountains. The stream is 100 kilometers long with no construction or human activity in sight. However, today I am unsure if I’ll ever be able to witness the same scene again due to activities that increase human-wildlife contact such as poaching, consumption, owning wildlife as pets, deforestation and infrastructure development.
These activities not only threaten the population of animals in the wild, but also increase the chances of zoonotic disease transmission. From Ebola to SARS, and now the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), there is a long list of infectious diseases that have the capability to move from animals to humans. Scientists expect there are others yet to emerge as wild habitats continue to shrink and we live in increasingly closer proximity to wildlife. This is why we must re-evaluate our distance with wildlife and adopt sustainable practices to prevent outbreaks like COVID-19.
All living things have evolved over millions of years in order to exist independently. But over time, humans became the most powerful being. We started to disrupt the cycle of other living things and now we are facing the consequence of that. I believe that global pandemics like COVID-19, are messages from mother nature asking us to let wildlife be and let nature take its course to keep our ecosystem in balance. In this time when society is practicing social distancing, we must apply similar concepts when it comes to wildlife.
We need to take a step back, we need to stop destroying wild habitats, stop hunting, buying, consuming, and owning wildlife as pets. At the same time, we need to increase our understanding of the importance of wildlife as well as the impact of our activities on the environment.
Join me now, tell your friends and family to never hunt, buy, consume and own wildlife as pets. We need to keep them wild, to keep us safe!
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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