Bushmeat is one of the major threats to wildlife in parts of Africa: large and medium-sized animals are vanishing from regions in a trend dubbed by biologists the ’empty forest syndrome’. A number of popularly consumed species are also threatened with global extinction. A new study in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science surveyed 1,050 households in Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of the Congo, regarding their consumption of bushmeat only to find that the practice was practically universal: 88.3 percent of households in Brazzaville consumed bushmeat.
“Urbanization and economic crisis in Congo Basin countries contribute to the extension of forest exploitation and, on the basis of cultural values, to the hunting of wild animals and to the development of an informal bushmeat trade,” write the authors of the study. “Roads established and maintained by logging concessions have intensified hunting by providing hunters greater access to relatively unexploited populations of forest wildlife and by lowering hunters’ costs to transport bushmeat to market.”
The widespread practice is threatening a number of species, including chimpanzees, gorillas, forest elephants, small antelopes known as duikers, and numerous monkeys.
Consumers purchased most of their bushmeat from markets (85.4 percent). However, nearly 80 percent of respondents said that bushmeat prices were on the rise with almost 75 percent stating they ate less bushmeat due to higher prices. When shortages of bushmeat hit the markets, most bushmeat consumers (81 percent) said they seek out other foods.
“According to the majority of urban consumers, prices of bushmeat are too high and are presently beyond their financial capacity. The present study found that only a few rich households declared they are presently able to regularly afford a meal based on bushmeat and the majority of households consumed bushmeat only on rare occasions,” the authors explained.
The number one reason for choosing to eat bushmeat? Taste, according to 67.8 percent of respondents; the survey also found that urban dwellers that had been born in rural areas steered toward bushmeat for its ‘rooted cultural value’.
Of the over 70 species eaten by respondents, blue duikers ( Cephalophus monticola) were the most commonly consumed. Monkeys were fourth and forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) tenth. Respondents ate 16 different species of primate, but over half of respondents said they would not eat gorilla or chimpanzee.
“If inhabitants of Brazzaville are allowed to consume bushmeat at the current levels, wildlife is likely to decrease and eventually to disappear,” the study concludes. “Conservation measures should take into account the interest of the population in bushmeat, and thus promote the breeding of domestic species and the breeding of animals whose meat products could be considered as ‘wild’ by the population (blue duiker, forest buffalo, red river hog, African brush-tailed porcupine and cane rat). Such game farming already exists in the Congo Basin where cane rat […] is sold at very competitive prices.”
CITATION: Roger Albert Mbete, Henri Banga-Mboko, Paul Racey, André Mfoukou-Ntsakala, Innocent Nganga, Cédric Vermeulen, Jean-Louis Doucet6, Jean-Luc Hornick, and Pascal Leroy.
Household bushmeat consumption in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo. Tropical Conservation Science Vol.4 (2):187-202, 2011.
(02/06/2011) Hunters are decimating species in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, a part of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Southern Tanzania, according to a new report compiled by international and Tanzanian conservationists. Incorporating three research projects, the report finds that bushmeat hunting in conjunction with forest degradation imperils the ecology of the protected area.
(01/27/2011) The big mammals for which Africa is so famous are vanishing in staggering numbers. According to a study published last year: Africa’s large mammal populations have dropped by 59% in just 40 years. But what is even more alarming was that the study only looked at mammal populations residing in parks and wildlife areas, i.e. lands that are, at least on paper, under governmental protection. Surveying 78 protected areas for 69 species, the study included global favorites such as the African elephant, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and even Africa’s feline king, the lion. “We weren’t surprised that populations had dropped but we were surprised by how large the drops had been,” lead author Ian Craigie told mongabay.com in an interview.
(11/04/2010) According to the first study of its kind in Africa, bushmeat hunting impacts African rainforests by wiping-out large mammals and birds—such as forest elephants, primates, and hornbills—that are critical for dispersing certain tree species. The study, published in Biotropica, found that heavy bushmeat hunting in the Central African Republic changes the structure of forest species by favoring small-seeded trees over large-seeded, leading to lower tree diversity of trees that have big seeds.