New York, June 3, 2020 – The Wildlife Conservation Society's Central Africa Team has issued a report on reducing the risk of future emerging infectious disease outbreaks by changing social norms around urban bushmeat consumption and stopping its commercial trade, which they say should be a priority for governments, the international community, and local populations across the region.
"This would significantly reduce the risk of zoonotic disease transmission and the possibility of another global pandemic, while simultaneously allowing rural communities without alternatives to hunt for subsistence."
This will be a long-term process, however. Changing long-standing consumer practices is a behavior change process and the principles of behavioral science and social marketing should be applied, they write. Long-term change takes time and will require sustained donor support to ensure the end result is a fundamental shift in the social norm around eating bushmeat in Central African cities.
For rural hunters, the report emphasizes that communication and reporting systems should be established, with training provided on how to minimize the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. Creating a rural hotline or similar can enable the reporting of animals found dead in the forest, but an accompanying message must be disseminated to emphasize that ‘if you find a carcass in the forest, never touch it, never move it, never bury it, but contact the local authorities and the veterinary service to determine the cause of death’ (where such services and expertise are available).
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