Wild meat: A resource under pressure
As many as 2000 species of invertebrates, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals are used as wild meat globally (Redmond et al. 2006). Wild meat or wild fish represent the main sources of protein, fat and micronutrients (such as iron) for millions of rural and forest people (Fa et al. 2016b). Wild meat also makes a crucial contribution to food security in circumstances where other food supply chains fail, and wild meat represents the sole or primary source of protein available. For example, it can become a vital ‘safety net’ in times of economic hardship, civil unrest, drought or disruption in the supply of alternatives (e.g. domestic meat and fish). Income from the sale of wild meat also contributes to the food security of rural families, when it is used to purchase other crucial food supplies (Lindsey et al. 2011a).
However, growing human populations, technological advances in hunting techniques, increasing access to once-remote habitats, and the emergence of a commercial wild meat trade – often to supply urban centres – have culminated in harvest rates that are causing significant declines in wildlife populations (Benítez-López et al. 2017). Species declines can result in profound ecosystem changes, ranging from coextinctions of interacting species to the loss of ecological services critical for humanity (Ripple et al. 2017; Young et al. 2016). Moreover, the loss of wildlife used as a main source of meat by local communities will impact the food security and livelihoods of these communities, exposing vulnerable households to further poverty (Fa et al. 2003; Lindsey et al. 2015).
Link: A recent review of wild meat issues is provided in the CIFOR/CBD technical report “Towards a sustainable, participatory and inclusive wild meat sector”. Further publications and reports can be found through the WILDMEAT library portal.
The need for a wild meat evidence base
The creation of long-term global, regional and national monitoring frameworks for wild meat to inform policy and legal interventions are crucial steps in recognizing the importance of existing wild meat use and trade, and designing relevant interventions to manage it sustainably, where possible.
Designing effective polices requires robust data on wild meat use, including the use of wild meat for food and income by local communities, the trade in wild meat locally, nationally and regionally, and the impact of use on species and ecosystems. However, many projects aiming to sustainably manage wild meat harvests do not currently monitor progress towards their aims and objectives. WILDMEAT can support projects by providing any available baseline data from the same area, as well as standardised, tested tools and methods for monitoring wild meat use to allow for comparison of wild meat datasets within and across sites.
At the national and regional level, few governments and regional observatories currently track wild meat use. This can lead to the importance of wild meat in the national and local economy being overlooked, leading to an undervaluation of the services that sustainably managed ecosystems provide. WILDMEAT can provide information to national and regional bodies, so that national and regional statistics for areas such as nutrition, health, trade and GDP can include wild meat use.