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SOS Rhino : In the News : Articles : The Conference of Biodiversity and Health.
The Conference of Biodiversity and Health in Galway, Ireland from 23rd – 25th August 2005.

By: Dr. Edwin Bosi, Program Officer, SOS Rhino Borneo

Hamdallah Zedan, the Assistant to United Nation’s Secretary General delivered the Secretary General’s address. Jim Knight, the M.P. and U.K. Minister for Landscape, Rural Affairs and Biodiversity gave an address via tele-video. Another official address came from Mr. Noel Treacy, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ireland.

Dr. Eric Chivian from Harvard Medical School was one of the key speakers. He told a story of a moth inside a plane. The passengers were horrified and all were too keen to destroy the poor moth. Thank to the intervention of Eric, the moth was captured in an air-sickness bag and released. This, according to Eric showed how disconnected humans are to nature. To him, a healthy human life means a healthy environment.

The main issues that attracted me most were the role and contribution of biodiversity to human health. For example, the simple cone snail which has polypeptides for the production of analgesic drug, minus the addiction. Hamdallah Zidane talked about the eight Millennium Development Goals. He also mentioned about 119 chemical compounds found in 90 plant species which have byproducts of the likes – quinine, artemisinin, morphane, paclitaxel and salicin (aspirin). He also mentioned about micro-organism derived penicillin.

The other interesting issue is the called the dilution effect. For example in Lyme disease, the vector is a tick and the hosts, rats and deer. The likelihood of man getting infected with Lyme is lower when there is higher density of deer. Human is an incidental host. A gold mining of North Amazon encourages the increase in human population. They hunt extensively and produce loud noises from equipments and planes. The uncontrolled hunting led to extinction of local wildlife population, leading to vampire bats biting human beings. There is likelihood of spread of rabies from bats to humans. The Golden Tamarin was on a verge of extinction when through conservation effort, the population has recovered. However, this monkey is a reservoir of Trypansome cruzi which causes Chigas disease in man.

Ecosystem services are common language. The services are food, water, fuel, pharmaceutical products from plants and animals, and climate regulation. John Hough of UNDP said biodiversity is a development issue. According to him, without biodiversity there is no sustainable development. He also stated that if we want to make poverty history we need biodiversity. Ulisses mentioned of 1.6 – 25 million hectares of deforestation in the Amazon, and 80% is for cattle farming. Prof. Chris Shaw talked about the importance of frogs in his drug program. Frog’s skin secretion has been found to contain compounds that are useful in pharmaceuticals. Billy Karesh of WCS talked about One World One Health. According to him, whether we like it or not, about 4.9 billion people are associated with animals. And the bush meat trade involved about one billion metric ton in Central Africa.

For the record, the world population was 6 billion in 2000 and expected to touch 7.5 billions by 2020. It is also reported that there are at least 800 million hungry people. On the other hand, due to over indulgence, there are about 17 million people with cardiovascular disease, 171 million suffering from diabetes and 300 million obese.

Dr. Edwin Bosi with Robert Sorenson, Deputy Director, Office of Ecology and Terrestrial Conservation, United States Department of State, Washington DC.


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