People around the world, especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, consume wild game, or bushmeat, whether out of necessity, as a matter of taste preference, or, in the case of particularly desirable wildlife species, to connote a certain social status. Bushmeat consumption, however, has devastated the populations of hundreds of wildlife species and been linked to the spread of zoological diseases such as the Ebola virus.
New Princeton University research finds that when people in developing countries move from rural areas to cities, they consume less bushmeat over time, perhaps because other sources of animal protein are more readily available. They also found that children in urban areas generally have less of a taste for wild game than their parents. In the long term, this could be good news for conservation.
The researchers traveled to Brazil — one of many countries worldwide experiencing a dramatic migration from rural to urban areas — and interviewed thousands of adults and children about their wildlife consumption habits.
The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, is among the first to explore how the consumption of wildlife changes as countries become increasingly urbanized. The results have profound implications for the rapidly growing wildlife trade, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry that threatens human health, drives species extinction, and damages ecosystems.
“In the Amazon, as in most developing countries, people are leaving rural areas and moving into cities. We find — for whatever reason — they are reducing their consumption of wild animals over time, providing a needed break for overhunted wildlife,” said study co-author David Wilcove, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and the High Meadows Environmental Institute.