Commercial bushmeat trade is devastating wildlife
Commercial bushmeat trade is devastating wildlife
September 15, 2008
Commercial killing of rainforest wildlife is putting biodiversity at risk and reducing sources of protein for rural populations, warns a new report from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB).
The report — which assessed the sustainability of bushmeat hunting — estimates that more than a million tons of bushmeat are harvested from Central Africa each year, an amount equivalent of almost four million head of cattle. It notes that while bushmeat provides up to 80 percent of the protein and fat needed in rural diets in Central Africa, policy makers pay little heed to managing the resource. As such, wildlife is being rapidly depleted in parts of the region both by local consumers who rely on game meat for protein and commercial hunters who sell to urban markets domestically and abroad.
“If current levels of hunting persist in Central Africa, bush meat protein supplies will fall dramatically, and a significant number of forest mammals will become extinct in less than 50 years,” said Robert Nasi of CIFOR, an author of the report.
The report says that while bushmeat hunting is decimating wildlife, the practice should be regulated rather than banned outright. A ban on bushmeat would only serve to impoverish rural populations dependent on game for protein and drive the practice further underground, the report argues.
“If local people are guaranteed the benefits of sustainable land use and hunting practices, they will be willing to invest in sound management and negotiate selective hunting regimes,” said Frances Seymour, Director General of CIFOR. “Sustainable management of bushmeat resources requires bringing the sector out into the open, removing the stigma of illegality, and including wild meat consumption in national statistics and planning.”
The report, “Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis,” argues that since the industrial extractive sector — logging, mining, and drilling — facilitates the bushmeat trade through the construction of roads and even the direct hiring of hunters to provision workers, it should play an important role in improving the sustainability of game harvesting. It recommends that these industries to work with stakeholders to “develop forest policies and management plans that incorporate wildlife concerns, rather than focusing just on timber and other forms of natural resource extraction,” according to a statement released by CIFOR.
“Such plans should include conservation education, an agreed system of law enforcement, development of alternative protein supplies and an intensive monitoring program,” the statement continues. “If designed and applied appropriately, this will not only serve to enhance wildlife conservation, but will ultimately benefit the private sector and local communities as well.”
The report suggests that Western consumers could play a hand in the effort since it is their demand for wood products that helps drive logging.
The report also recommends establishing clear title to land in forest areas.
“Only if the local hunter is bestowed with some right to decide what, where and how he may hunt — as well as the knowledge to understand the consequences of his decisions — will he embrace his responsibility to hunt sustainably,” Nasi said.
Some notes from the report
- In Gabon, the annual bushmeat trade has been valued at US$25 million (€18.5 million), while in West and Central Africa, estimates range from $42 to $205 per year. The current annual harvest in Central Africa alone may be in excess of 2 million metric tons, the equivalent of over 1.3 billion chickens or 2.5 million cows.
- The value of wild meat harvested in the Amazon basin exceeds $175 million per year.
- In at least 62 countries world-wide, wildlife and fish constitute a minimum of 20% of the animal protein in rural diets. Hunting provides between 30% and 80% of the overall protein intake of rural households in Central Africa.
- The overall international trade in animal products is estimated at approximately US$3.9 billion.
CITATION: Nasi, R.; Brown, D.; Wilkie, D.; Bennett, E.; Tutin, C.; van Tol, G.; Christophersen, T. 2007. Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis [PDF]. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor. Technical Series no. 33, 50 pages.
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