Conservationist Dr Jane Goodall has said warnings of a pandemic were ignored and humanity has “disrespected the natural world”.
The renowned primatologist, 86, said she was not surprised at the current global health crisis, listing the trading of wildlife and encroachment on habitats as contributing factors.
While the origin of Covid-19 is unknown, the most commonly accepted theory is came from a wet market in Wuhan, China.
During an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show to discuss the work of her institute, Dr Goodall said: “One really important message is this pandemic was predicted and people have not heeded the lessons we should have learned from previous epidemics and pandemics.
“And that is because we have disrespected the natural world, disrespected the animals who live there, taken away so much habitat.”
Dr Goodall, widely considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, criticised the destruction of wildlife habitats and the hunting, eating and trafficking of animals.
She added: “Selling them in these wildlife markets as food or pets, and because the animals are stressed, because there is blood and everything everywhere, it’s the perfect environment for a virus to spill over from an animal to a human.”
Dr Goodall also warned of future outbreaks if lessons were not learned.
“People have been predicting this. It’s not only wild animals, it’s also the way we treat domestic animals in our intensive farms. That has created epidemics in the past and will again in the future,” she said.
Dr Goodall, who was speaking on Earth Day, the annual event calling for greater support of environmental causes, shared a stark message to mark the occasion.
“The world is only going to come right when every day is an Earth Day. Because we’re part of the natural world, we depend on it,” she said.