Introduction: The flow of wild meat from habitat source areas to urban centres is perceived as the main driver of wild meat overutilization in the tropics and subtropics. To achieve change on the scale that is required to reduce the unsustainable exploitation of wildlife for food and the emergence of zoonotic disease, behavioural change interventions are needed to reduce wild meat consumption in large cities. The emergence of the Ebola epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic have had consequences on the use of wild meat either directly through government bans or indirectly through people voluntarily deciding not to eat this type of meat.
Objective: Quantify whether zoonotic diseases have an impact on the purchasing behaviour of consumers for animal groups likely to be implicated in the transmission of animal pathogens.
Methods: We present surveillance data of wild meat purchases and consumer attitudes in Nigerian wild meat markets (2010-2021) and review a number of West African studies quantifying the effect of Ebola and COVID-19 on trade and consumption of wild meat.
Results: Analysing urban wild meat markets in Nigeria we have shown a marked decline of sales of animal species associated with Ebola after the first Ebola case in 2014. Interviews revealed strong rural versus urban and age-specific differences regarding wild meat consumption and attitudes. Most people worried about Ebola and more than half of interviewees agreed that wild meat poses a transmission risk. Except urban males, over-60-year-olds were least informed about the risk of wild meat, indicating that any future behavioural change campaign should focus on the younger age classes. The declining sales show that changes in purchasing behaviour and national education campaigns were effective in reducing the trade of bats and primates, animal groups likely to be implicated in Ebola transmission. Similarly, significant declining trends of sales of many species were observed after the first Nigerian cases COVID-19 cases in March 2020. However, a Sierra Leone study didn´t show a decline after COVID-19.
Discussion: Published data show that behavioural change was not uniform in West Africa. There was a decline of wild meat trade after Ebola and COVID-19 in Nigeria as well as after Ebola in Liberia. However, no such changes were observed in Togo after Ebola and Sierra Leone after COVID-19. Such differences between countries are essential to consider since the social-psychological drivers shaping consumption of wild meat may differ significantly between nations due to historical and educational factors.
zoonotic disease, wild meat, ebola, Covid-19, West Africa, human health