How Risk Awareness Can Reduce Wildlife Consumption

Equipping the public with a deeper understanding of disease transmission risks may be key to changing wildlife consumption behaviors.

AsianScientist (Oct. 18, 2021) – With greater awareness about COVID-19, individuals may be dissuaded from consuming wildlife products, revealed a survey across five Asian countries. The results, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, could lead to better interventions to change consumer behaviors, promoting conservation and public health in tandem.

All over the world, wildlife products are staples in diverse cuisines, often seen as part of traditions and cultural practices. However, the high consumption of wildlife may pose a threat to biodiversity, with species numbers dwindling due to this unrelenting consumer demand.

Besides aiding conservation efforts, reducing wildlife consumption may also be a critical part of mitigating the spread of infectious diseases. History has a long list of disease-causing agents, including SARS-CoV-2, that have crossed the species barrier at some point, jumping from animals to humans and vice versa.

When the pandemic struck, scientists rushed to decipher the origins of the disease, with bats and pangolins among the animals caught in the fray. As news spread about the virus’ likely spillover from bats to humans, an international team wanted to find out whether COVID-19 had any effect on people’s perceptions toward wildlife consumption.

The survey asked 5,000 individuals from Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam about their wildlife consumption patterns prior to and after the pandemic, their likelihood to purchase wildlife in the future and their self-reported awareness about COVID-19. Although there were demographic variations, participants who were most aware about COVID-19 were up to 24 percent less likely to buy wildlife products.

Strikingly, however, two countries showed the opposite result. In Vietnam, those with higher awareness were more likely to have increased consumption, while participants from Myanmar cited a greater probability of future wildlife purchases.

These findings provide clues to designing more effective education campaigns about wildlife consumption. According to the researchers, risk communication that targets social networks instead of individuals can help change perceptions and behaviors. However, they also cautioned that a careful, data-driven approach is needed to account for cultural sensitivities and other drivers of wildlife demand.

“Basing potential behavior-change interventions on the best available data and analytical approaches reduces the chance of unintended negative consequences when making policy decisions on wildlife consumption and could greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of these campaigns,” the authors concluded.

The article can be found at: Naidoo et al. (2021) Socio-demographic Correlates of Wildlife Consumption During Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Source: World Wildlife Fund; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist