Today Patrick C. R. Matanda, Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy And Mining, issued a press release warning people against eating bushmeat.
“It’s illegal. It’s dangerous. It carries diseases.”
That’s the message from our hard-hitting new campaign warning against the trade and consumption of bushmeat launched jointly today by the Government of Malawi through the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in partnership with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT).
These risks are particularly pertinent in Malawi, with one recent study of four protected areas estimating that almost 40% of people in these communities were engaged in the consumption of bushmeat.
The campaign is also timely given the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated from wild animals sold to eat in markets in Wuhan, China. In response, the Chinese Government has banned consumption and trade in wildlife products. The virus has since spread to over 30 other countries and territories, with the number of cases globally surpassing 80,000.
Experts warn that the risks posed to humans by animal-borne diseases are likely to become more significant in the future, as climate change and globalisation affect the interaction between people and animals. In fact, most new infectious diseases come from wildlife. Just last year countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone were issuing similar directives in the wake of the Ebola crisis, which also originated from the consumption of infected wild animals before mutating to allow human-to-human transmission.
Malawi is yet to record a case of coronavirus or Ebola and has taken steps to control the risks posed by other zoonotic diseases (conditions that can be passed from animals to humans). Last year, for example, the Government took action to prevent the transmission of anthrax from a number of infected hippos in Liwonde National Park to humans. As a result, no fatalities were recorded.
The campaign is being implemented by the DNPW and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT), thanks to support from the Lion Recovery Fund and Zambian Wildlife Charity Wildlife Crime Prevention (WCP).
Samantha Nampuntha, Campaigns Manager for LWT, explained, “Working with our Zambian colleagues, we decided to focus our campaign messages on the most immediate risks posed by the trade and consumption of bushmeat, since research shows that these are most likely to drive behavioural change. By keeping the very real risks of disease and prosecution front of mind, we are hoping that the prospect of eating bushmeat becomes a lot less appetising.”
Public service announcements will be aired on TV and radio and shared through social media. Campaigners are also reaching out to communities in protected areas to spread the message through solar cinema and street theatre.