The harvest of wildlife for bushmeat and traditional medicine in East, South and Southeast Asia: current knowledge base, challenges, opportunities and areas for future research.
Bushmeat has always provided a source of nutrition and traditional medicine for local people throughout Asia; this important resource is becoming increasingly under pressure due to loss of forest and overharvesting because of rising demand from growing human populations and trade (legal and illegal). For this reason, the conservation of forests and sustainable use of wildlife are both imperative for improving rural livelihoods and poverty alleviation. A comprehensive literature review yielded 236 papers relevant to this topic, with the greatest number of papers discussing South East Asia (61%) followed by South Asia (22%) and East Asia (16%). Potential solutions that emerged from the review include the use of: measures of harvest to better gauge sustainable offtake levels, protected areas and recovery zones; improved governance; and the implementation of co-management partnerships. Potential solutions for the traditional medicine trade include urban demand reduction campaigns, introduction of synthetic alternatives, increased efforts to reduce illegal trade, and implementation of certification schemes for wildlife products. In all of these cases, a myriad of social implications, such as the importance and spiritual significance of bushmeat in different cultures, the preferences for bushmeat over farmed alternatives and the tradition of wildlife-derived medicines, must be considered. Areas for further research include: the study of climate change on bushmeat and food security; the traditional medicine supply chain; consumer reaction to synthetic alternatives; the use of bushmeat particularly for medicinal purposes in urban societies; and the negative effects of the growing wildlife trade on local livelihoods.