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Bushmeat from African apes sold in American markets

Bushmeat from African apes sold in American markets

Bushmeat from African apes sold in American markets
July 6, 2006

Bushmeat from wild primates in Africa is ending up on plates in North America and western Europe according to an article published in the current issue of New Scientist.

Justin Brashares, a wildlife biologist at the University of California at Berkeley who carried out a survey of clandestine markets in seven major cities, says that “the meat, which includes chimpanzee and gorilla parts, makes up nearly a third of the illegal international trade in bushmeat killed in Africa.”

“I was shocked that open markets sell large quantities of African bushmeat in major cities outside of Africa,” Brashares says.

Wildlife experts say that overseas bushmeat trade is a great concern because international demand for wildlife products can quickly lead to overexploitation. Subsistence hunting, while potentially damaging to wildlife populations, is generally done on a much smaller scale.

In the central African country of Gabon, researchers have found that bushmeat is less consumed locally and
increasingly trafficked commercially in cities — a disturbing trend since entirely new markets are emerging. One researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found that hunters are trading fresh bushmeat — 50-70 percent of which goes bad before reaching market in some cases — for tinned sardines. The situation is said to be even worse in the Congos, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.

Severed monkey leg in the bottom of a canoe in Gabon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

In some parts of west and central Africa, the availability of bushmeat is made possible by the logging industry whose road construction opens stretches of rainforest to hunters and settlers. Some loggers supplement their income by sending loads of bushmeat back to cities on logging trucks.

Beyond wildlife depletion, the bushmeat trade raises health concerns. Apes and monkeys are known to carry diseases — including the horrific hemorrhagic Ebola virus — that affect humans. Improper handling of dead animals can result in transmission of these pathogens to humans who are only a car ride or plane flight away from spreading the disease to the global population.

Related articles

Roads tied to bushmeat hunting in Africa A new study ties the presence of roads to bushmeat hunting in the Congo rainforest and also raises important questions for global conservation. The study, published in the current edition of Conservation Biology, found that roads and associated hunting pressure reduced the abundance of a number of mammal species including duikers, forest elephants, buffalo, red river hogs, lowland gorillas, and carnivores. The research suggests that even moderate hunting pressure can significantly affect the structure of mammal communities in central Africa.

New monkey virus infects human; jumps species barrier Scientists have identified the first reported case in Asia of primate-to-human transmission of simian foamy virus (SFV), a retrovirus found in macaques and other primates that so far has not been shown to cause disease in humans. The transmission of the virus from a monkey to a human took place at a monkey temple in Bali, Indonesia, the researchers report in the July issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

This article used information from New Scientist

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