Lemur

Facing devastating issues such as the widespread incidence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and a growing number of starving people, Africans in Madagascar are turning to wild bushmeat as a food source, cites a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research, supported primarily by the National Geographic Society Conservation Trust and the National Science Foundation and conducted by the University of California, Berkeley cites that the move towards consuming wild bushmeat in Madagascar—mainly bats and lemurs—has improved the health of the natives. In an article published by the National Geographic, the study’s lead researcher, Christopher Golden, PhD, MPH said it’s “estimated that a loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia. Among children in the poorest households, the researchers added, there would be a three-fold increase in the incidence of anemia. Left untreated, anemia in children can impair growth and cognitive development.”

While long symbolic as both a sign of poverty and as an indicator of decadence and affluence (depending on what type of wild game was caught), the practice of hunting for bushmeat has also contributed to a number of failing wild animal populations—particularly Africa’s prized large mammals. And environmental efforts to protect vital animal populations are constantly struggling against poachers and education about the importance of biodiversity and its impact on the health of the land and people.

Other issues surrounding the consumption of wild bushmeat include a greater risk of contracting diseases. Scientists have connected the spread of avian flu and HIV to the pathogens that cross species when eaten by humans.

Scientists are looking at dietary supplementation via iron, zinc and other critical nutrients as a means to decrease the incidence of bushmeat consumption. Said Golden, “We need to improve diets through partnerships between public health and development organizations.”

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Image: NH53