The socio-economic drivers of bushmeat consumption during the West African Ebola crisis.
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Bushmeat represents an important source of animal protein for humans in tropical Africa. Unsustainable bushmeat hunting is a major threat to wildlife and its consumption is associated with an increased risk of acquiring zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola virus disease (EVD). During the recent EVD outbreak in West Africa, it is likely that human dietary behavior and local attitudes toward bushmeat consumption changed in response to the crisis, and that the rate of change depended on prevailing socio-economic conditions, including wealth and education. In this study, we therefore investigated the effects of income, education, and literacy on changes in bushmeat consumption during the crisis, as well as complementary changes in daily meal frequency, food diversity and bushmeat preference. More specifically, we tested whether wealthier households with more educated household heads decreased their consumption of bushmeat during the EVD crisis, and whether their daily meal frequency and food diversity remained constant. We used Generalized Linear Mixed Models to analyze interview data from two nationwide household surveys across Liberia. We found an overall decrease in bushmeat consumption during the crisis across all income levels. However, the rate of bushmeat consumption in high-income households decreased less than in low-income households. Daily meal frequency decreased during the crisis, and the diversity of food items and preferences for bushmeat species remained constant. Our multidisciplinary approach to study the impact of EVD can be applied to assess how other disasters affect social-ecological systems and improve our understanding and the management of future crises.
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