Site icon Conservation news

Bushmeat’s dual role: threatened species face off against nutrition and culture

Deforestation, habitat destruction, climate change, and other man-made forces are threatening species around the world. But, often overlooked, overhunting is a rising peril to many animals. On the other hand, bushmeat hunting also helps provide vital protein in rural tropical regions and is an important cultural rite for many indigenous tribes. Thus, there is a dual challenge of maintaining food security for forest-dependent populations and ensuring wildlife conservation.

A recent study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) analyzed the nutritional, economic, and cultural value of bushmeat, which they define as “non-domesticated terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians harvested for food,” in the tri-region of Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

The study concludes that bushmeat and fish are not the primary source of protein for urban people but instead industrial chicken and canned meats. However, households that do consume bushmeat obtain more iron nutrients and less fat and salt.

Armadillo being sold in the market at Tabatinga Brazil.  Photo credit: Daniel Cruz.
Armadillo being sold in the market at Tabatinga Brazil. Photo credit: Daniel Cruz.

In urban and peri-urban areas, bushmeat has a cultural significance and is used primarily as a festival food. The use of bushmeat at dance rituals and ethic festivals allows people express their ethnic identity, promote family bonding and adapt to new cultures. Not surprisingly, bushmeat is consumed more regularly in families that include an active hunter with about 12 percent of households in rural communities eating wild animals.

Finally, hunting animals also plays a role in the region’s economy. According to the study, the bushmeat trade is worth in excess of $1 million a year across three countries. More specifically, 70 percent of economic value from bushmeat hunting activities is in Brazil, 24 percent in Peru, and seven percent in Colombia.

The most common species sold in frontier markets included paca (Cuniculus paca), lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), and the red brocket deer (Mazama Americana). The authors state that the majority of the species sold are classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In addition, these species are seen as resilient to hunting and able to adapt to varying habitats. Still, the lowland tapir is listed as Vulnerable and the red brocket deer as Data Deficient. Moreover many large predators—such as jaguars, pumas, anaconda, and caiman—depend on these species for prey.

Smoked tapir meat, fresh deer meat & tortoise eggs in Leticia, Colombia. Photo Credit: Nathalie van Vliet Smoked tapir meat, fresh deer meat & tortoise eggs in Leticia, Colombia. Photo Credit: Nathalie van Vliet

The authors also analyzed the link between biodiversity and nutrition security in the three countries.

“Because we can’t yet substitute wildlife products (animals and plants) by domesticated ones in the diet of many forest-dependent populations and because most these wild products are micronutrient rich (contrary to staple foods) they play a disproportionate role in maintaining a balanced and diversified diet,” said co-author Robert Nasi, the deputy director general of research at the Center for International Forestry Research. “We therefore need to make sure these products continue to exist.”

Overall, the study calls for greater integration of species conservation and food security policies. These policies should take into account the social and cultural values of indigenous people and acknowledge the important role of bushmeat on cultural identity, food security, and the local economies.

“While there isn’t a bushmeat crisis it doesn’t mean there is not a biodiversity issue linked to economic development and land conservation rather than hunting,” said Nasi.

View from one of the study areas Puerto Narino, Colombia.  Photo credit: Daniel Cruz.
View from one of the study areas Puerto Narino, Colombia. Photo credit: Daniel Cruz.

In 2011, Robert Nasi and his team at the Center for International Forestry Research established a Bushmeat Research Initiative. According to Nasi, the program, “raises awareness about the issue (of bushmeat) and proposes manageable solutions.”

The study was conducted between August 2012 and December 2013 in Leticia and Puerto Narino in Colombia; the communities of Caballococha, Santa Rosa and Atacuari River in Peru; and Tabatinga, Benjamin Constant, and Atalaia do Norte in Brazil.


Related articles

Adorbs: scientists capture first photos of African golden cat kittens

(01/28/2015) The African golden cat is arguably the continent’s least known feline, inhabiting dense tropical forests, almost never seen, and, of course, long-upstaged by Africa’s famous felines. But a few intrepid scientists are beginning to uncover the long-unknown lives of these wild cats. Researchers working in Uganda’s Kibale National Park have captured remarkable photos of African golden cats…with kittens.

Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014

(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.

Use of mammals still prevalent in Brazil’s Conservation Units

(10/06/2014) For as long as humans and animals have co-existed, people have utilized them as resources. Animals, and their parts, have been used for a variety of purposes, ranging from basic food to more esoteric practices such as in magical ceremonies or religion. A new study has found that the undocumented use of animals, particularly mammals, continues to occur in Brazil’s protected areas known as Conservation Units.

Exit mobile version