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‘The curious case of the Bat and the Pangolin’

Since the start of this global pandemic, a story about a bat infecting a Pangolin was emerging out of a wet market in Wuhan, China. A week later, I wonder how the world changed so dramatically and will it ever resume to its normal self ever again?
Stories are emerging out of China that they have conquered the Corona Virus and are now back to business. While the rest of the world is now locked up and needs help in various fields such as the hygiene and medical industry – they are rummaging through their very desperate inquiries and trying to make sense of all this once again. Ever heard of a delicacy – Steamed Pangolin with ginger and citronella?
It is a desired dish in Chinese culture and many believe that Pangolin meat is a cure for an array of diseases. The scales of Pangolins are also used for medicinal purposes. In an article entitled “Coronavirus: Revenge of the Pangolins?” – the New York Times reports that in January 2019, a shipment containing nine tons of Pangolin scales was seized in Hong Kong. The article mentions that this meat was thought to have come from some 14,000 Pangolins and valued at $8.0 Million. The article also mentions that Pangolin meat was valued at $300 per pound last year. There is no blame game here, but a simple indication to all those involved in this trade – as it spans over India, Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asiapacific nations.
It is saddening to think of how the world’s wildlife is treated like a commodity, and people continue to profit from it. Does anyone have ownership over wildlife? Do sovereign governments have this right? Do global or regional animal rights organizations reserve this right? Whichever answer you may pick, you will find a skeptical outcome ahead. In any event, we may agree that as human beings we must draw up stricter global and local legislation to overcome this issue before it is too late.
Perhaps now this global pandemic teaches us, at the very least, this one valuable lesson if not others. It is also pertinent to reflect on the plight of the 200 million domestic animals slaughtered each day, and the 2800 million wild catch and aquaculture, including both primary marine-life and fishing bye-catch. If you lost me at the numbers, that’s approximately 3 billion beings a day! So maybe it is time to reconsider our eating habits. Not only do we need legislation at the international level, but throughout the world, local governments should take positive steps to set stricter limits and restrictions. We must try and live through a more sustainable lifestyle – and protect the food chain that is coming from our land and water bodies, as at current levels they too are perishing. Certainly all religions and cultures teach us conservation techniques. They teach us the value of each life on earth and how much cherish our environment.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, most people blamed the Chinese, whilst others came up with conspiracy theories. Some blamed the Americans for unleashing it on the Chinese and the Iranians to
gain political or economic advantage. This was until last week – when the USA’s figures had not peaked to where they are today. Today the story has changed, as the US has now become the epicenter of the pandemic. Now the same people describe the virus as some sort of biological warfare weapon – where people play field hockey with it – passing it from one country to the other.
So it brings us to see how circumstances can change ever so quickly; where even the mightiest of the fat cats or the toughest of the bullies can be brought to their knees in a span of a few days. Hopefully this shall also teach us a lesson that the level of global inequality needs to be checked. A few days ago, the G20 pledged a total of $5 trillion to ‘defend the global economy’ against the Covid-19. That is all well and good – after the wellto-do had bickered amongst themselves; but did we stop to ask – from whom does the global economy need to be defended against? Is it the Corona Virus or the billions who are locked inside their homes; or the Billionaires who do not even declare a country of residence on their tax returns? In which residence will they be locked down?
I shall now beg a more pertinent question. In a total world economy which measures approx $80 trillion, this fund is 6.25% of total world GDP equivalent. I am sure there must have been serious debate about how much cash to throw at this problem – but is it a problem which will go away by only doling out funds and are these even enough when the total world wealth is measured at $360 trillion? This basically means that we are throwing a mere 1.38% of our total money at this so called ‘problem.’ It is certainly something worthwhile considering also.
We may certainly need to reflect on how to solve the issue of disparity on the global and local levels when this is over. The powerful need to put their heads together on this one too, and perhaps self legislate – as if the virus continues to wipe out larger strands of our societies through mutating further, there will be no more blood to suck! Eventually we may all go back to the basics where the pitch forks come out when enough becomes enough.
About two weeks ago, Angela Merkel’s comments were seen as ignorant or pessimist when she said that almost 70% of the German population shall contract the virus sooner or later. Now Boris Johnson, who himself is suffering from the virus is writing similar words to his countrymen today. I believe that at this point, while some countries may be suffering more than others, it is only a matter of time before we all may have to deal with this virus (which is life threatening to only a few). We will also be forced to consider that this is mother nature’s way to reinstate it’s age old legend – ‘survival of the fittest.’ It seems like a harsh reality which may have to be overcome or realized. While medical advances have privileged our loved ones, and access to better health care facilities have helped respective populations – we need to ask ourselves: Do poorer nations suffer more than richer ones?
Whatever the case, we may have to now retire ourselves to the idea of self-quarantining each time we cross international borders, or getting health checked prior to boarding a flight. Maybe a vaccine is discovered in due time; but then who will gain access to it? Or should we retire to the fact that just maybe we all need the antibodies of the Covid-19 to carry on as a human race for something which may be looming a few centuries ahead.
There is scientific evidence that species evolved over time. There are deep sea creatures which have, over time, shed their glands to enable them to handle the immense atmospheric pressure at the ocean beds. Certainly this evolution happened over time as they fought to survive and delve deeper into their thoughts and into the sea. The notion begs if they have souls & minds and hence can be categorized as beings. But can we safely assume that there has certainly been some thought process behind this evolution, or was it mother nature nurturing her children? Are the philosophical works of Descartes of animals as automata being put to shame or is there some other force, such as our souls, going to guide us through these trying times.
Is this a sign from nature itself, where every few centuries it hits a reset button to allow the world’s lungs to breathe? We all can experience the levels of toxicity which have come down drastically over the last two weeks. Maybe we will now have to reconsider the way we travel and use sustainable energy sources.
In my humble opinion, we shall get over this crisis too. Albeit at a grave cost to the cruise liners, airlines, hospitality & retail industries amongst others. I believe some shall profit also, as with each capitalist crisis, but this is different. Whatever happens, I sincerely hope that each business thinks seriously about how to protect and help the vulnerable; but more importantly, play their part in caring for mother earth – who they feel doesn’t need their protection. Eventually we may all still go out six months later and buy the things which we ‘need’ or would like to ‘invest’ in – and the wheels of our great world economy shall churn once more.
The human being is a social animal, and by nature, needs to show off his or her ego, or to massage each others’ – and all this gives some level of satisfaction while maintaining our sanity. Take Tom Hanks in his film ‘Cast Away’ for example – and his friend Wilson (the football). He certainly could not have survived a deserted island without his imaginary friend there to support him. And then one begins to wonder if his beloved felt much the same way as him while in self quarantine. Perhaps not. As in this day in age, we have digital media to maintain our sanity to a certain extent. However, even so – after experiencing a form of isolation from each other for a few weeks, we still feel as if we have been imprisoned.
We do all this at our own free will, some out of fear, while others out of social responsibility. Yet most of us will come out of this failing to reflect how this common instance should not only change our lives forever, but should also bind us rather than separate us. Separated in our homes today, we see how the paranoia of this pandemic is impeding our very basic instincts of human touch. Yet we fail to try and touch each other’s lives on a daily basis – even while we have the luxury of the digital world.
At the end of the day, it should be our humanity and principles which should guide us – and eventually it will help in making the world a better place. And perhaps next time, the Bat will think twice before shitting on the Pangolin’s head.



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