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Placing COVID-19 and the wildlife trade within the bigger picture

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Placing COVID-19 and the wildlife trade within the bigger picture

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This presentation by EJ Milner-Gulland was delivered during the online event 'Why eat wild meat? Insights from Africa and lessons for COVID-19 responses' on Wednesday, 4 August.

The event explored why people eat wild meat and how to design interventions that can help improve sustainability and safety.

EJ Milner-Gulland is director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science at University of Oxford.

This presentation by EJ Milner-Gulland was delivered during the online event 'Why eat wild meat? Insights from Africa and lessons for COVID-19 responses' on Wednesday, 4 August.

The event explored why people eat wild meat and how to design interventions that can help improve sustainability and safety.

EJ Milner-Gulland is director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science at University of Oxford.

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Placing COVID-19 and the wildlife trade within the bigger picture

  1. 1. Resetting our relationship with nature: Placing COVID-19 and the wildlife trade within the bigger picture E.J. Milner-Gulland Photos by Harriet Ibbett, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia, 2016 https://tradehub.earth https://www.illegalwildlifetrade.net
  2. 2. Pics: anon
  3. 3. Unsustainable wild meat use • Large-scale commercial hunting for urban markets • Hunting (targeted, opportunistic, or incidental) of threatened species • Indiscriminate snaring • Outsiders exploiting the resources of indigenous peoples and local communities
  4. 4. Booth et al. 2021 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.639216/full
  5. 5. Pics Neil Burgess, Getty images
  6. 6. Pics: Neil Burgess, anon. Sainsbury et al. 2015 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320715002244
  7. 7. Alternatives projects • To hunting (alternative livelihoods) • To consuming (alternative proteins) • Often the two are intertwined and/or address the same households Problem: Unsustainable use of wild meat Intervention: Provide alternative food/livelihood Outcome: People switch to alternative Impact: Wildlife populations recover
  8. 8. Common assumptions • Providing alternatives will reduce people’s need and desire to exploit natural resources • Communities are homogeneous; everyone relates to wildlife in similar ways • Targeting individuals will scale up to system- level changes Wright et al. 2015 https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.12607
  9. 9. Do alternatives projects work? Wicander & Coad (2018) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/26500658.pdf
  10. 10. 39 36 36 31 26 25 24 17 16 16 16 8 7 6 4 3 2 10 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 Beekeeping Cane rat farming Livestock rearing Fish farming Pig farming Agriculture Snail farming Professional training Park employment Poultry farming Vegetable gardening Microcredit Small mammal rearing Agroforestry Palm oil Wild species farming Frozen meats/fish Other Number of projects
  11. 11. Answer • Not enough information to know whether alternatives projects are working • But it appears not particularly well (similar conclusions found by a number of other authors) • Design flaws and unrealistic assumptions appear to be rife • Most analyses focus on livelihoods rather than consumption, although both are important • Hence the Why Eat Wild Meat? project https://www.iied.org/why-eat-wild-meat https://www.iccs.org.uk/project/why-eat-wild-meat
  12. 12. COVID Demand Shocks Wild Meat Market Global transport use declines Reduction in international travel Oil prices fall Supply chain shocks Incomes fall / unemployment rises Decline in visitor numbers Export markets disrupted Commodity price shocks Import markets disrupted Non wildmeat food prices increase Reduction in PA enforcement capacity National Market Global market Urban- rural migration Opportunity costs of hunting falls Rural disposable income falls Government revenue falls National Impacts Local market impacts Local market drivers Drivers of hunting behaviour Number of hunters rises Awareness of zoonotic disease risk heightened National marginalisation of wild meat (regulation; perceptions; preferences) Reduction in bushmeat consumption Urban and rural demand falls Urban disposable incomes fall Urban demand falls Rural demand rises / falls Incomes fall / unemployment rises Non wildmeat food prices increase URBAN RURAL Incentive to hunt decreases (commercial) Incentive to hunt increases (commercial or subsistence) Hunting response Wild Meat in the time of COVID Macnamara et al. (2020) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10640-020-00474-5
  13. 13. COVID Demand Shocks Wild Meat Market Global transport use declines Reduction in international travel Oil prices fall Supply chain shocks Incomes fall / unemployment rises Decline in visitor numbers Export markets disrupted Commodity price shocks Import markets disrupted Non wildmeat food prices increase Reduction in PA enforcement capacity National Market Global market Urban- rural migration Opportunity costs of hunting falls Rural disposable income falls Government revenue falls National Impacts Local market impacts Local market drivers Drivers of hunting behaviour Number of hunters rises Awareness of zoonotic disease risk heightened National marginalisation of wild meat (regulation; perceptions; preferences) Reduction in bushmeat consumption Urban and rural demand falls Urban disposable incomes fall Urban demand falls Rural demand rises / falls Incomes fall / unemployment rises Non wildmeat food prices increase URBAN RURAL Incentive to hunt decreases (commercial) Incentive to hunt increases (commercial or subsistence) Hunting response ?
  14. 14. Concluding thoughts • Calls for bans on wild meat consumption cannot ignore the realities of those who depend on it for food and livelihoods • Addressing household meat consumption in rural areas will not lead to the system-wide changes needed for wildlife recovery – Other drivers include urban demand, large-scale habitat destruction, unemployment (urban & rural) • International illegal wildlife trade is multifaceted (and mostly unconnected to this issue) • Need a shift from scapegoating towards rights- based approaches

Editor's Notes

  • Last year there were loads of such campaigns, run by Western NGOs.. note the animals pictured, note the clear focus on consumption. Note too that elephants and tigers have nothing to do with covid. It’s a simple and powerful message that has got a lot of traction
  • The reality of most wildlife consumption is very different. If you focus on the main cause of concern for covid (wild mammals; ignoring fish, invertebrates, birds, plants, fungi), then much of the consumption happens in SSA, and mostly involves relatively resilient species – like forest rats, duikers. It is a major source of food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people and it is not necessarily illegal. It is also relatively localised (within countries)
  • That’s not to say there aren’t serious issues to address of course, worldwide
  • So the issue of wildlife use is complicated – and it relates to human wellbeing and to conservation in a range of ways
  • While international attention is focussed on stopping international trade in highly endangered species, there have been many projects also trying to address local or regional consumption and trade in wild meat, and aiming to support communities living in areas with wildlife to improve their livelihoods while also reducing dependence on wild meat. There’s a bit of a disconnect here.
  • These projects offer a range of alternatives – for example this project in Tanzania offered rabbits, goats, stoves, tree-planting, bee-keeping (all to the same villages)
  • There are two broad types of alternatives project – reducing supply and reducing demand, broadly speaking (but focussed on the areas where wildlife is hunted not the urban centres)
  • WM is embedded in a wider economic system with drivers of consumption (and so hunting) at the local level operating at levels from international through to the local area itself. There’s much we don’t know about how these drivers work
  • So this is why we also are presenting work today which we did to try to understand how this is playing out
  • Welcome to the webinar – I’m looking forward to the talks!

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