Benefits of wildlife consumption to child nutrition in a biodiversity hotspot

Benefits of wildlife consumption to child nutrition in a biodiversity hotspot

Author(s): Golden, Christopher D , Fernald, Lia C. H. , Brashares, Justin S , Rasolofoniaina, B. J. Rodolph , Kremen, Claire

Publication Date: 2011

Location: Africa


Terrestrial wildlife is the primary source of meat for hundreds of millions of people throughout the developing world. Despite widespread human reliance on wildlife for food, the impact of wildlife depletion on human health remains poorly understood. Here we studied a prospective longitudinal cohort of 77 preadolescent children (under 12 y of age) in rural northeastern Madagascar and show that consuming more wildlife was associated with significantly higher hemoglobin concentrations. Our empirical models demonstrate that removing access to wildlife would induce a 29% increase in the numbers of children suffering from anemia and a tripling of anemia cases among children in the poorest households. The well-known progression from anemia to future disease demonstrates the powerful and far-reaching effects of lost wildlife access on a variety of human health outcomes, including cognitive, motor, and physical deficits. Loss of access to wildlife could arise either from the diligent enforcement of existing conservation policy or from unbridled unsustainable harvest, leading to depletion. Conservation enforcement would enact a more rapid restriction of resources, but self-depletion would potentially lead, albeit more slowly, both to irrevocable local wildlife extinctions and loss of the harvested resource. Our research quantifies costs of reduced access to wildlife for a rural community in Madagascar and illuminates pathways that may broadly link reduced natural resource access to declines in childhood health.

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