An Interview with Dr. Nirmal Jivan Shah on Nature Seychelles’ new awareness and educational resource on COVID-19

Nature Seychelles has developed a resource made up of carefully curated scientific papers, articles and reports on the Coronavirus (Covid-19), which is being shared on our education website: http://education.natureseychelles.org/ Dr. Nirmal Jivan Shah, Nature Seychelles Chief Executive, expounds on the reasoning behind this effort.

coronavirus dark 1200x800 CDC

(Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - A digital illustration of the coronavirus shows the crown-like appearance of the virus.)

Why has Nature Seychelles, an environmental organization developed this resource on a medical situation?

The roots of the COVID-19 pandemic is in the wildlife trade and in the relentless extermination of wild animals and their habitats. As conservationists, this troubles us greatly. Secondly, it is now more than a health crisis - it is a global and national development crisis. We are an environmental charity deeply involved in promoting sustainable development and this, of course, concerns us.

Why did Nature Seychelles feel it should step in?

There is actually a second pandemic and this is the pandemic of coronavirus fake news. Nature Seychelles is a knowledge-based and science-driven organization. We are alarmed that there is so much misinformation, disinformation, information manipulation and plain malicious intent in this instance. We are not health professionals but we know how science works so we felt we could do a public service by posting selected scientific and policy content.

Piled Higher and Deeper

(Image: This comic from phdcomics.com perfectly illustrates the science-public consumption news cycle)

What kind of documents are posted?

Our intent is to post mostly peer-reviewed papers and official reports from governments and WHO. We are not posting any comments by Nature Seychelles. I personally read and curate all these documents. I also include a handful of articles, which I have tried to vet for authenticity when I think these would shed some clarity on a certain subject. Each post has a short summary on what that particular document contains.

What subjects are these covering?

There are hundreds of scientific papers and reports being produced and the knowledge is constantly evolving and improving. We do not want to and cannot post all of this. We are trying to cover mostly subjects that people have questions about or where there is fake news propagating, such as the origin of the COVID-19.

Why are you personally interested in this subject?

Because of the wildlife angle, I have been writing about zoonotic diseases in the local press and in blogs for the last 15 years. I developed several articles on the subject over the years in my regular column in The People newspaper including on the Avian Flu. On this subject, I was a member of the government Task Force for HINI and I made a presentation on how most of the disease was being driven by the mostly illegal trade in chicken rather than wild birds. I published an article in the conservation magazine Zwazo on the occurrence of West Nile Fever antibodies in the Seychellois population. I had a blog called Something Wicked This Way Comes on several zoonotic diseases in bats.

karl sharro satirist

(Image: Satirist Karl Sharro https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks weighs in on the subject.)

Follow this link to the resource: http://education.natureseychelles.org/

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