Assessing the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence on perceptions around wildlife consumption and wildlife management policies

Organisations involved:

University of Oxford, UKDr Lauren CoadYuhan LiMatilda DunnDr Dan ChallenderDr Stephanie Brittain

Wildlife Conservation Society, DRCDr Robert Mwinyihali, Dr Juliet Wright, Lude Kinzonzi, Divin Malekani 

University of Stirling, UKProf Katherine AbernethyDr Robbie Whytock

Intitut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale, Gabon (IRET): Dr Donald Midoko, Paul Loundou. Christian Mikolo Yobo

École régionale post-universitaire d'aménagement et de gestion intégrés des forêts tropicales, ROC (ERAIFT): Théodore Trefon, Krossy Mavakala

 

Target species: 

Species related to wildlife consumption in China, DRC, Gabon, ROC and UK

 

Outline of research/programme: 

wild meat
Photo: Christian Mikolo Yobo 

Wild meat is a crucial source of food and income for many rural communities but is also becoming increasingly traded across large distances and internationally, for consumption as a luxury or delicacies within urban areas. The hunting and trade of wild meat is also a major driver of biodiversity loss in many countries, and has been identified as one of the key vectors for transmission of zoonotic diseases between wildlife and humans. 

Most recently, one suspected origin of the COVID-19 outbreak is an urban market in Wuhan, where wild meat was reported to be sold. Since then, China has sparked a global conversation around wild meat consumption and catalysed calls for new wildlife trade policies and interventions to reduce the chance of further pandemics. The success and uptake of these regulations on wild meat trade will largely be determined by public perceptions on the associated benefits and risks. Currently, there is little knowledge of the perceptions around wild meat consumption and the proposed policies across Central Africa China and UK, nor how these may have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a joint effort with the partner organisations and researchers, this project aims to explore the perceptions around wildlife consumption in China, DRC, Gabon, ROC and UK, and understand the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on these perceptions, and how these public responses are shaped by media discourses. The project will use the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) platform to collect printed media news for content analysis, and consumer surveys and social media analysis across China, Central Africa and UK to understand public perceptions and behaviours relating to wild meat. 

The findings from this research will be used to provide evidence-based policy briefs to inform national and regional wild meat policy design and implementation, with the high-level aim of reducing and regulating wild meat consumption in urban areas.

 

wild meat
Photo: Christian Mikolo Yobo 

Objectives:

This study will address the following objectives:

  • Investigate the public perceptions around wildlife consumption, especially if it is associated with health risks, across China, DRC, Gabon, ROC and UK. Identify the temporal and geographical differences.
  • Understand what information sources on COVID-19 are used by media and social media and how much scientific evidence underpins these narratives. Investigate the extent that these different media outlets and sources are trusted by the public and in particular wild meat users. 
  • Survey the behaviour of wild meat consumption across China, DRC, Gabon, ROC and UK. 
  • Compare the policy suggestions on wildlife consumption emerging in the media in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and explore the support for these policies across demographics. 

 

Summary of planned activities inc. milestones/dates: 

  1. Project planning and set-up. Dates: May to July 2020

Goals: Identify research questions; complete funding application; ethnic approval

  1. Mobile Phones surveys. Dates: July to September 2020

Goals: Identify survey questions; pilot surveys; conduct 2000 phone surveys across DRC, ROC, Gabon and China. 

  1. Media scraping.  Dates: collect news range from June 2019 to September 2020

Goals: Develop automatic and manual media scraping protocol; collect news articles

  1. Social media scraping. Dates: Vary from country to country

Goals: Develop automatic and manual social media scraping protocol; collect social media perceptions from the major platforms within each country

  1. Data analysis. Dates: September to December 2020 

Goals: Analyze data using the software NVivo and microsoft excel

 

Project outputs:

From this research, we endeavour to provide a number of outputs including: 

  1. Capacity building

The project researchers based at the University of Oxford will run training sessions on automatic data scraping tools and qualitative and quantitative data analysis software with partner researchers from DRC, ROC and Gabon.

  1. Research papers and blogs 

We aim to publish these study findings in peer-reviewed journals and popular science blogs in order to contribute to the wider understanding of wild meat consumption and perceptions in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  1. Knowledge sharing with policymakers

We will also design bespoke policy briefs for each country (DRC, ROC Gabon and China), outlining the research results and implications for national wild meat policies.

 

This programme is funded by UKRI and is part of the larger Trade Hub programme