GCRF_NF94: Identifying and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on legal and sustainable wildlife trade in LMICs

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham


To contain COVID-19, there has been a clampdown on wildlife trade, which is a key source of livelihood and food security for hundreds of millions of people in LMICs. Wildlife markets have been closed, new bans on wildlife trade are being enforced and governments are proposing drastic changes to wildlife trade regulations. These reforms aim to safeguard global public health and global food systems, yet they disrupt wildlife supply chains that meet peoples' food security and economic needs. The clampdown on global wildlife trade also risks pushing trade underground with implications for public health, conservation and crime. The aim of this project is to develop evidence-based guidelines for regulating wildlife trade to address the risks of COVID-19 without undermining legal and sustainable wildlife trade economies. This project will use trade data, interviews and the Delphi method to: (1) track changing wildlife trade trends during the pandemic; (2) assess the impacts of these changing trends on people engaged in wildlife economies; and (3) formulate new guidelines for safe, legal and sustainable wildlife trade in the COVID-19 era. The project will be informed by evidence from Kenya and Cameroon - two LMICs with wildlife sectors that stand to be significantly impacted by COVID-19. This project will be led by an international, interdisciplinary team of wildlife trade, conservation and livelihood experts, and implemented in collaboration with CIFOR, an institute at the forefront of research on wildlife trade in LMICs. An Expert Impact Network (IUCN, IIED, TRAFFIC) has been established to realise impact.


10 25 50
Description We have found that wild meat trade networks in DRC rely on informal and customary approaches to preventing zoonotic and food borne diseases. Simple interventions in infrastructure (e.g. providing electricity or fridges or even piped water for sanitation) may be more effective at preventing disease spillover and outbreaks than complete bans, as has been called for with the COVID-19 pandemic, which push wild meat trade underground where it is even riskier.

We have found in Cameroon, Colombia, DRC, and Guyana that wild meat is an important coping strategy for many in LMICs during times of crises like COVID-19. Banning or cracking down on the trade, as has been called for from a public health perspective, is not only ineffective (see above); it also reduces peoples' ability to cope and survive crises. Additionally, we found that, during crises, people rely more on subsistence hunting. In some cases (e.g. Colombia) this has led to knowledge transfer from Indigenous Peoples on how to hunt wild animals safely and sustainably. It is promising that support for Indigenous sovereignty could lead to more resilient populations as well as safer and more sustainable use of wildlife.
Exploitation Route Findings have already informed a UK POSTnote on Emerging Zoonosis, and we expect greater engagement with UK policymakers in the coming years as the government prepares to prioritise issues around zoonosis and pandemics. However, the findings can also be used by environmental and public health organisations to inform their policymaking - offering clear guidance on areas to prioritise when shifting away from ineffective bans and heavy-handed responses to wildlife trade.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Healthcare

URL https://wildlifetradefutures.com/
Description They have been used to inform a UK POSTnote on Emerging Zoonosis
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Contributed to UK Parliament POSTnote on "Preventing Emerging Zoonoses"
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
Impact The results of this objective are detailed in our attached policy brief published in English and French. Note that Wildlife Trade Futures was asked to contribute to a UK Parliament POSTnote based on this work. (See Section 2.)
URL https://wildlifetradefutures.com/
Description Biodiversity Conservation and Zoonosis
Amount £32,952 (GBP)
Organisation Northumbria University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2022 
End 06/2023
Description COVID-19 and Wildlife Trade Impact Accelerator Grant
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Manchester 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 07/2021
Description Establishing a community of practice to ensure zoonotic disease prevention policies safeguard the rights and wellbeing of wildlife-dependent populations
Amount £33,142 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2022 
End 03/2023
Description CIFOR-ICRAF Zambia 
Organisation Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Country Indonesia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Secured funding to look at game meat and zoonosis links in legal wildlife trade in Zambia; securing funding for dissemination and planning workshop to develop proposals for future funding bids
Collaborator Contribution Conducting research; organising logistics for dissemination and planning workshop; developing partnerships with Zambia stakeholders, such as Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Impact Dissemination and planning workshop
Start Year 2022
Description Virtual Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Thus far, 123 people have attended our virtual seminar series that aims to centre critical perspectives and under-appreciated issues in debates and decision-making processes around the relationship between COVID-19, zoonosis, and wildlife trade. Attendees a from a range of epistemic, nongovernmental, and third sector organisations internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.wildlifetradefutures.com