Hunting & Health

Our research investigates the costs and benefits of hunting to human health, with a focus on infectious diseases, nutrition, and their interactions. Hunting and the consumption of animal-based foods is considered a major driving force in human biological and behavioral evolution. In modern hunting societies, wild meat is variably linked to nutrition and food security. However, hunting is also a pathway for spillover of zoonotic diseases from animals to humans, affecting human health and economies globally. Our research in this area aims to understand risk and resilience of hunting societies in the context of global change and identify opportunities for synergistic public health and conservation action.

Hunter butchering wild meat (left) and child selling bushmeat in local village (right) illustrate the conflicting health risks and benefits associated with hunting.

Photo by CERCOPAN

Ongoing projects:

Global health risks associated with wildlife products hunted and traded as "bushmeat” 

Informal and complex supply-chains link wildlife consumers living in major cities with wildlife products from rural and urban areas. Contact with wildlife products along value chains provides a route by which people can be exposed to wildlife-borne zoonotic pathogens, which can cause outbreaks of disease in humans. This project combines metagenomic sequencing with mixed-methods social science research to identify potentially zoonotic pathogens circulating undetected in wildlife traded for meat (aka "bushmeat") and the underlying factors that shape human exposure risks across supply-chains. Through enhanced disease surveillance and behavioral research, we hope to contribute to early detection of pathogens and identify entry points for effective interventions. 

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In collaboration with the Calabar Institute for Tropical Disease Research and Prevention and African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease

In addition to the project described above, we are excited to be collaborating on a project led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on Mitigating risks of disease transmission in the wild meat food chain from forest to fork in Cameroon.

Nutritional composition of bushmeat and its contribution to diets in rural forest areas of Nigera

Our research demonstrates the importance of access to bushmeat for food security. However, access is not the only significant aspect of food security; nutritional qualities of foods and nutritionally balanced diets are also important. Wild meat is not only as a source of energy, but also protein, fat, and micronutrients. However, little is known about the nutritional composition and variation in wildmeat. This project generates data on nutritional composition of wildlife and combines this with data on local recipes and individual food intake to dietary better understand

the nutritional significance of bushmeat to local diets. This research will help us to decipher the decision to hunt and consume certain animals and the potential impact of reduced access to wildmeat from overharvesting or conservation and public health intervention.

In collaboration with Jessica Rothman (Hunter College of The City University of New York) and Clement Alawa (University of Abuja)

Publications:

Friant S, Bonwitt J, Ayambem WA, Ifebueme NM, Alobi AO, Otukpa OM, Bennett AJ, Shea C, Rothman JM, Goldberg TL, Jacka JK (2022) Zootherapy as a potential pathway for zoonotic spillover: a mixed-methods study of the use of animal products in medicinal and cultural practices in Nigeria. One health outlook, 4(1):5. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42522-022-00060-3

Friant S, Young DK, Goldberg TL (2022) Typical intracranial myiasis in Nigerian red river hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) caused by an unknown bot fly (Diptera: Oestridae). International journal for parasitology. Parasites and wildlife, 17:14–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2021.11.005

Friant, S, Ayambem WA, Alobi AO, Ifebueme NM, Otukpa OM, Ogar DA, Alawa CBI, Goldberg TG, Jacka JK, Rothman JM. 2020. Eating Bushmeat Improves Food Security in a Biodiversity and Infectious Disease “Hotspot”. EcoHealthhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-020-01473-0

Friant, S, Ayambem WA, Alobi AO, Ifebueme NM, Otukpa OM, Ogar DA, Alawa CBI, Goldberg TG, Jacka JK, Rothman JM. 2019. Life on the Rainforest Edge: Food Security in the Agricultural-Forest Frontier of Cross River State, Nigeria. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00113

Friant S, Paige SB, Goldberg TL. 2015. Drivers of bushmeat hunting and perceptions of zoonoses in Nigerian hunting communities. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 9.

Svensson M, Friant S. 2014. Threats from trading and hunting of pottos and angwantibos in Africa resemble those faced by slow lorises in Asia. Endangered Species Research 23:107–114.

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