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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
Pics: anon
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
Booth et al. 2021 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.639216/full
Pics Neil Burgess, Getty images
Pics: Neil Burgess, anon.
Sainsbury et al. 2015 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320715002244
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
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
Do alternatives projects work?
Wicander & Coad (2018)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/26500658.pdf
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
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
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
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
?
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

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

  • 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.
  • 4. 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
  • 5. Booth et al. 2021 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.639216/full
  • 6. Pics Neil Burgess, Getty images
  • 7. Pics: Neil Burgess, anon. Sainsbury et al. 2015 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320715002244
  • 8. 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
  • 9. 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
  • 10. Do alternatives projects work? Wicander & Coad (2018) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/26500658.pdf
  • 11. 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
  • 12.
  • 13. 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
  • 14. 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
  • 15. 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 ?
  • 16. 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

  1. 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
  2. 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)
  3. That’s not to say there aren’t serious issues to address of course, worldwide
  4. So the issue of wildlife use is complicated – and it relates to human wellbeing and to conservation in a range of ways
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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
  9. So this is why we also are presenting work today which we did to try to understand how this is playing out
  10. Welcome to the webinar – I’m looking forward to the talks!