As wildlife plant and animal populations continue to drop around the world, health professionals are concerned over what the health implications are going to be for children. Researchers from several well-respected scientific organizations have collaborated on a research project to assess how loss of access to wildlife may impact the nutritional health of pre-adolescents in third world countries. Researchers representedÂ Harvard School of Public Health,Â Harvard Center for the Environment and the University of California at Berkeley.
These researchers tailored their research around populaces from areas such as Madagascar that do not have access to fortified foods or vitamin supplements. Their research concluded that children in those parts of the world are highly dependent on wildlife to attain the nutrients they need to stay healthy. The study found that children living in areas where wildlife was decreasing were 30% more likely to develop diseases such as anemia. These findings were reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The authors of the study have a possible explanation. They argued that children living in most third-world countries are highly dependent on the nutrients from native wildlife to stay healthy. In particular, animal-based products are important sources of key nutrients such as zinc, vitamin B-12 and iron.
According to Christopher Golden, one of the study’s authors andÂ epidemiologistÂ with Harvard Universityâ€™s Center for the Environment, the loss of these nutrients can lead to serious consequences to children in these regions of the world. This increases their odds of developing anemia from 42 to 54 percent. Golden and the other researchers argue that without conservation efforts aimed at preserving local wildlife, local populations will be unknowingly and unintentionally depleting the very wildlife populations they depend on for nutrition.
Graham Crawford, Chief of Veterinary Services at the San Francisco Zoo has a possible solution. Crawford is working closely with Golden to help improve infrastructure and find new ways to improve the health of poultry in these regions of the world. Hopefully, improving access to poultry meats will help offset the loss of local wildlife and protect the nutrition of the citizens in these areas of the world.
Dr. Samuel Myers is Golden’s colleague and adviser. Myers acknowledges the need to understand the role the natural world plays in the health of human beings. He believes this research is a step in the right direction, but feels it only scratches the surface. Myers believes more research should be conducted on marine andÂ terrestrialÂ wildlife to assess their impact on our health.