Awareness and Outreach
Hunting for bushmeat, whether for local consumption or for sale in urban markets, has been an under-recognized threat to wildlife conservation in East Africa relative to West and Central Africa. Each year hundreds of thousands of animals across the region continued to be killed, yet most citizens and governments don’t recognize the magnitude of the problem
The founding members of the BEAN network, including government and non-profit professionals, work across the region to educate society, including rural stakeholders, private businesses, multiple levels and sectors of government, and urban citizens, about the problem of bushmeat in an increasingly human-dominated landscape. Data from field-based studies provided insight into the specific site-based challenges, from which these awareness programs were developed. This research-based strategy is important for implementing awareness activities, as conservation challenges vary greatly from site to site.
Reaching local communities
Jonam Cultural and Conservation Association handing over weapons to reduce bushmeat hunting. Photo courtesy G. Okello
Wildlife decline over the past four decades in Uganda has been dramatic, with recent bushmeat consumption trends being higher around national parks. In 2009, research concluded that the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) should engage local leadership in working with other stakeholders and local communities to identify and develop alternative protein and income sources. Today, rural chiefs around Murchison National Park in Uganda are participating with wildlife authorities to teach villagers about the importance of wildlife, handing over 540 weapons from hunters to park authorities. UWA, through one of BEAN’s founders, now works with the Jonam Cultural and Conservation Association, composing a bushmeat song, participating in a Ugandan bushmeat documentary, engaging national newspapers, drama groups, football competitions, and study tours for village chiefs. This energy has helped to raise the profile of the importance of wildlife across not only the park, but started to bring the problem onto the national scene. In Tanzania’s Katavi National Park, bushmeat research has suggested community members hunt mostly for income (80% of the hunters). To address this education and awareness with a well focused message will be developed as part of the solution for the park.
Sudan Radio to introduce the conservation challenge to the public, alongside the Wildlife Conservation Society have taken their bushmeat awareness campaign to the army, local and state government, and urban citizens to raise the profile of prolific hunting in the new country where no environmental education has happened in decades. At a similar scale in Tanzania, a founding BEAN member has taken the campaign to the private sector by educating tour operators about the bushmeat crisis.
Research in the Tsavo and Masai Mara ecosystems in 2008-2009 demonstrated high numbers of households consuming bushmeat (up to 68%), which have devastating implications for Kenya’s wildlife and tourism revenue. To address this, bushmeat training modules and educational materials have been developed for over seventeen wildlife clubs and environmental educators in the Tsavo and Masai Mara ecosystems to address increasing hunting for local and regional consumption of wildlife. Today these materials are being shared with counterparts in Uganda to address bushmeat issues in the national parks. In addition, BEAN affiliates organized Kenya’s first ever bushmeat symposium which brought together wildlife professionals to share the latest information on bushmeat challenges with the goal of starting a collective dialogue on addressing the problem. A follow-up symposium will be held in 2012 to examine progress made and where efforts within the conservation community should be focused.