Wild animals play an integral and complex role in the economies and ecologies of many countries across the globe, including those of West and Central Africa, the focus of this policy perspective. The trade in wild meat, and its role in diets, have been brought into focus as a consequence of discussions over the origins of COVID-19. As a result, there have been calls for the closure of China’s “wet markets”; greater scrutiny of the wildlife trade in general; and a spotlight has been placed on the potential risks posed by growing human populations and shrinking natural habitats for animal to human transmission of zoonotic diseases. However, to date there has been little attention given to what the consequences of the COVID-19 economic shock may be for the wildlife trade; the people who rely on it for their livelihoods; and the wildlife that is exploited. In this policy perspective, we argue that the links between the COVID-19 pandemic, rural livelihoods and wildlife are likely to be more complex, more nuanced, and more far-reaching, than is represented in the literature to date. We develop a causal model that tracks the likely implications for the wild meat trade of the systemic crisis triggered by COVID-19. We focus on the resulting economic shockwave, as manifested in the collapse in global demand for commodities such as oil, and international tourism services, and what this may mean for local African economies and livelihoods. We trace the shockwave through to the consequences for the use of, and demand for, wild meats as households respond to these changes. We suggest that understanding and predicting the complex dynamics of wild meat use requires increased collaboration between environmental and resource economics and the ecological and conservation sciences.
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McNamara, J., Robinson, E., Abernethy, K., Midoko Iponga, D., Sackey, H., Wright, J. & Milner-Gulland, E. 2020, 'COVID-19, Systemic Crisis, and Possible Implications for the Wild Meat Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa', Environmental and Resource Economics, 76, pp. 1045-1066. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-020-00474-5