An investigation into the wild meat trade in Malaysia and its implications for zoonotic disease
Hunting wildlife for food has detrimental effects on many wild animal populations and represents a major threat to biodiversity. The great diversity of zoonotic pathogens identified in wildlife hosts may pose infection risks to humans involved in the wild meat trade. Southeast Asia is a hotspot for zoonotic emerging infectious diseases and the commercialisation of this trade presents challenges to wildlife conservation and public health. This dissertation explores these issues in Malaysia to better understand the consequences of wildlife trade.This study utilises survey data from establishments selling wild meat across Malaysia (collected by TRAFFIC Southeast Asia) in order to identify commonly traded species and uses published information to examine the drivers and impacts of this trade on wildlife populations. A literature review determines the potential zoonotic infection risks and transmission routes to hunters, traders and consumers, focusing the discussion on significant pathogens from commonly available species. The microbial food safety risks of this trade are highlighted by a proposal to conduct a risk assessment on the hazard of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia. coli (STEC) from wild deer, following Codex Alimentarius Commission guidelines.This dissertation suggests that consumer preferences for wild meat drive the increasingly commercial trade in Malaysia, with wild pig, deer and reptile species being commonly hunted and leading to significant impacts upon some populations. The great variety of traded wildlife can host numerous zoonotic pathogens and several species (e.g. wild ungulates, reptiles and macaques) may harbour multiple pathogens, which can cause human diseases associated with hunting, butchering and consumption. Many bacteria and parasites are transmitted to humans via foodborne routes, which lead to the proposal for a food safety risk assessment on the STEC hazard from wild venison. The review also highlights the lack of pathogen data for certain species and advises further epidemiological research on wildlife and human populations in Malaysia. Overall, the dissertation asserts that the wild meat trade threatens wildlife populations and risks human zoonotic disease in Malaysia, a conclusion of importance for conservation and public health strategies.