What is Bushmeat?
Poachers in South Sudan. Photo courtesy I. Seme
The bushmeat trade is the illegal, over-hunting of wildlife for meat and income.
Recent studies have determined that across East Africa, there is a widespread, growing illegal bushmeat trade. This over-harvesting is causing a reduction in numbers and diversity of wildlife.
In West and Central Africa, bushmeat trade has resulted in declines and local extinctions of many wildlife species and the economic, cultural and ecosystem services they provide.
Addressing the bushmeat trade requires a holistic multi-pronged approach involving bushmeat awareness, protein and economic alternatives, law enforcement, and policy.
This link from the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF) provides a great overview of what bushmeat is, including key issues, efforts, and solutions. BCTF was a ten-year initiative to collect information and link partners across the globe, and all of their knowledge is stored at www.bushmeat.org
In East Africa, what are key points to consider?
- Bushmeat consumption hampers protection and sustainability of resources
- There is a decline in wildlife populations due to the bushmeat trade
- Bushmeat consumption can lead to risks such as being jailed, zoonotic disease infections and diminished livelihoods for local communities
- There are alternative proteins and incomes activities available
- Wildlife consumption and trade are top drivers of biodiversity loss
- Wildlife conservation is a key to sustainable development and necessary to improve human livelihoods, particularly those around protected areas
- Loss in wildlife reduces opportunities to alternatives for economic development (e.g. potential for ecotourism)
- Illegal wildlife consumption jeopardizes future existence of wild animals
- Protection and sustainability of resources are needed for ecosystem services (water, air, soil, rainfall) essential to supporting consumer livelihoods and ability to have income to purchase external goods
Similarities and Differences Found Across the East African Region from Bushmeat Assessments
Across the eastern Africa region, the USFWS MENTOR Fellowship Program fellows found the following commonalities on the illegal bushmeat trade:
- In all countries, wildlife populations are decreasing, and bushmeat is considered to be common cause of this.
- There is inadequate awareness on wildlife laws, the impact of bushmeat, and the linkages between bushmeat and emerging infectious diseases.
- Law enforcement, capacity to deal with the bushmeat issue, and technology for identifying bushmeat are inadequate across the countries.
- Collaboration to deal with the bushmeat issue is poor among stakeholders.
- The drivers for the illegal bushmeat trade are common across the region.
- The hunting tools and methods used across the region are common.