Protecting bird population and ecosystems is vital, the UN Environment Program said on Thursday, as destruction of nature are linked to infectious diseases such as the novel coronavirus.

“The coronavirus pandemic is reminding us that we live in a connected world. It’s an opportunity to revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild a more environmentally responsible world,” the UN agency said in a statement, ahead of the World Migratory Bird Day.

World Migratory Bird Day is a biannual awareness-raising event marked on two peak days in the year – the second Saturday of May and October. 

Referring to this year’s theme of the day, Birds Connect Our World, it said that this stresses the importance of conserving as well as restoring the ecosystems which support the survival and well-being of migratory birds.

“Given that destruction of nature has also been linked to the kinds of infectious diseases we are now combating, taking actions to protect migratory birds and their habitats are more important than ever,” Amy Fraenkel, executive secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, said in the statement.

She added that loss and destruction of birds’ habitats are the major cause of many bird species declining around the world.

Since first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 187 countries and regions, with the US and Europe the hardest-hit areas.

Over 3.77 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll surpassing 264,100 and more than 1.25 million recoveries, according to data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Wildlife NGOs, environmental groups continue to highlight the importance of protecting nature for a healthy and sustainable planet to prevent future pandemics, as the virus spread from a wildlife market, where wild animals like pangolins and bats are sold.

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