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Keywords:

  • hunting;
  • bushmeat;
  • endangered species;
  • conservation;
  • zoonosis;
  • cross-species transmission;
  • education;
  • public health

Abstract

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 perceptions 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.