WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The loss of access to wildlife for food is linked to nutritional deficiencies in children living in subsistence rainforest communities, U.S. researchers say.
A study of the rainforests of Madagascar by researchers with the University of California-Berkeley, Harvard Center for the Environment and Harvard School of Public Health found reductions in wildlife populations impact the health and livelihoods of subsistence communities who depend on them.
In parts of the world where common foods are not fortified and people do not receive supplements, animal-source foods offer critical micronutrients such as iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12 that cannot be obtained in sufficient quantities from non-meat sources, researchers said Tuesday in a release from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Researchers said losing access to wildlife for food increases the prevalence of anemia in pre-adolescent children.
"Children's cognitive development, their physical capacity, their future trajectory in life, can be dramatically affected by anemia and other diseases related to poor nutrition," lead author Christopher Golden of the Harvard Center for the Environment said. "Without conservation efforts, it is highly possible that local people could inadvertently deplete many of the wildlife populations that they depend on for food and health."
Golden and colleague Graham Crawford from the San Francisco Zoo leading a project to develop infrastructure and systems for improving poultry health, which could fill the gap created by the loss of access to meat from wild animals.
"Seasonally, 60-80 percent of chicken flocks may die off due to poultry diseases that are easily prevented through vaccination. Chickens may serve to reduce pressure on wildlife, while also meeting the micronutrient needs of focus in our research," Golden said.
The study appears this week in the early online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.