Local people hunt wildlife for a constellation of different reasons but one of the primary benefits of wildlife consumption is obtaining critical micronutrients that are absent in the rest of a traditional Malagasy diet. Malagasy people eat more rice per person per day than any other country on earth. Unfortunately, rice is a nutrient poor staple and adequate nutrition must be sourced elsewhere. Animal-source foods are incredibly important sources of fats and micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B complex. Conservation policy prohibits much of the hunting that now occurs illegally. If wildlife populations became depleted from unsustainable harvest or if conservation policy were enforced and access was lost, then the nutritional health consequences to local food security could be major. Since 2008, we have been studying local human health in detail and conducted a prospective cohort study to investigate the epidemiology of anemia associated with bushmeat consumption.
The policy implications for this field of research are profound. To date, environmental conservation has been framed as a trade-off between protecting the needs of wildlife and supplying the needs of human populations. By investigating the pivotal role that intact wildlife populations can play in providing human nutrition, we will illuminate the opportunity to optimize child and maternal health outcomes by protecting and maintaining sustainable populations of fish and wildlife. By quantifying these linkages, it will also be possible to explicitly calculate the public health gains that can be anticipated as a result of environmental conservation policies that maintain access to robust wildlife populations.
1. Golden, C. D., L. C. H. Fernald, J. S. Brashares, B. J. R. Rasolofoniaina, and C. Kremen. 2011. Benefits of wildlife consumption to child nutrition in a biodiversity hotspot. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 108:19653-19656.
2. Golden, C. D., J. Rabehatonina, A. Rakotosoa, and M. Moore. Socio-ecological analysis of natural resource use in Betampona Strict Natural Reserve. Madagascar Conservation & Development, North America, 9, Nov. 2014. Available at: <http://journalmcd.com/index.php/mcd/article/view/mcd.v9i2.4>.
3. Golden, C. D. and J. Comaroff. 2015. The human health and conservation relevance of food taboos in northeastern Madagascar. Ecology and Society20(2): 42. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07590-200242
4. Van Vliet, N, Moreno, J., Gómez, J., Zhou, W., Fa, J.E., Golden, C.D., Alves, R.R.N., and Nasi, R. 2017. Bushmeat and human health: assessing the evidence in tropical and sub-tropical forests. Ethnobiology and Conservation 6:3.