Eating Bushmeat Improves Food Security in a Biodiversity and Infectious Disease "Hotspot"

Ecohealth. 2020 Mar;17(1):125-138. doi: 10.1007/s10393-020-01473-0. Epub 2020 Feb 5.


Hunting and consumption of wild animals, colloquially known as "bushmeat," is associated with health trade-offs. Contact with wildlife increases exposure to wildlife-origin zoonotic diseases yet bushmeat is an important nutritional resource in many rural communities. In this study, we test the hypothesis that bushmeat improves food security in communities that hunt and trade bushmeat regularly. We conducted 478 interviews with men and women in six communities near Cross River National Park in Nigeria. We used interview responses to relate prevalence and diversity of bushmeat consumption to household food security status. Animal-based foods were the most commonly obtained items from the forest, and 48 types of wild vertebrate animals were consumed within the past 30 days. Seventy-five percent of households experienced some degree of food insecurity related to food access. Bushmeat consumption was significantly associated with relatively higher household food security status. Rodents were more important predictors of food security than other animal taxa. Despite increased bushmeat consumption in food-secure households, food-insecure households consumed a higher diversity of bushmeat species. Results show that consumption of bushmeat, especially rodents, is uniquely related to improved food security. Reliance on a wider diversity of species in food-insecure households may in turn affect their nutrition, exposures to reservoirs of zoonotic infections, and impact on wildlife conservation. Our results indicate that food security should be addressed in conservation and public health strategies aimed at reducing human-wildlife contact, and that improved wildlife protection, when combined with alternative animal-based foods, would positively affect food security in the long term.

Keywords: Bushmeat; Ecosystem services; Food security; Nigeria; Nutrition; Zoonoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Biodiversity*
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Female
  • Food Security*
  • Food Supply
  • Forests
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat*
  • Parks, Recreational
  • Public Health
  • Rural Population
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology*