Patterns of bushmeat hunting and perceptions of disease risk among central African communities

21 April 2006 Science News

Patterns of bushmeat hunting and perceptions of disease risk among central African communities

M. LeBreton, A. T. Prosser, U. Tamoufe, W. Sateren, E. Mpoudi-Ngole, J. L. D. Diffo,
D. S. Burke & N. D. Wolfe
There is a great need to determine the factors that influence the hunting,
butchering and eating of bushmeat to better manage the important social, public
health and conservation consequences of these activities. In particular, the hunting
and butchering of wild animals can lead to the transmission of diseases that have
potentially serious consequences for exposed people and their communities.
Comprehension of these risks may lead to decreased levels of these activities. To
investigate these issues, 3971 questionnaires were completed to examine the
determinants of the hunting, butchering and eating of wild animals and percep-
tions of disease risk in 17 rural central African villages. A high proportion of
individuals reported perceiving a risk of disease infection with bushmeat contact.
Individuals who perceived risk were significantly less likely to butcher wild animals
than those who perceived no risk. However, perception of risk was not associated
with hunting and eating bushmeat (activities that, compared with butchering,
involve less contact with raw blood and body fluids). This suggests that some
individuals may act on perceived risk to avoid higher risk activity. These findings
reinforce the notion that conservation programs in rural villages in central Africa
should include health-risk education. This has the potential to reduce the levels of
use of wild animals, particularly of certain endangered species (e.g. many non-
human primates) that pose a particular risk to human health. However, as the use
of wild game is likely to continue, people should be encouraged to undertake
hunting and butchering more safely for their own and their community’s health.


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