In Africa, the slaughter of animals for bushmeat is taking an increasing toll on species long-term chance of survival. Concern has risen over dramatic declines in wildlife populations and the difficulty of achieving sustainable consumption in the face of over-hunting in sub-Saharan Africa.
Heather Eves, the director of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force in Washington, gives an overview of the complex bushmeat issue. In this first of a five-part series, Eves covers the causes, trends, and effect on health of subsistence and international commercial trading. She told VOA English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard that bushmeat comes from wild animals -- anything in size from cane rats to elephants, with antelope as a common source. She says once the antelope and other large-bodied species are hunted to extinction, smaller species are targeted, including primates.
Eves says increased demand and unmanaged economic development, which increases access to animals, drives over-hunting to the point where many wildlife populations are threatened with extinction.
DANGEROUS TO HEALTH
Not only is bushmeat hunting unsustainable, it’s also linked to serious health risks. These include the emergence of HIV/AIDS through a similar virus called SIVs. The virus transfers from primate bushmeat to humans during the butchering process and then mutates. Eves says more than 20 species of primates commonly traded, carry different forms of SIVs.
Other health risks associated with consuming bushmeat include infection with monkey pox and the deadly Marburg and Ebola viruses.
Eves says bushmeat has been an issue for decades in different regions of the world. For example, she says over hunting in Asia many years ago devastated many wildlife populations.
LOGGING LEADS TO LOSS
The task force director says In West Africa in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, logging resulted in many wildlife populations being reduced to remnants. Today, very few protected areas still have the original forest cover necessary for the animals to survive. Eves says most of the larger mammals were hunted to the point of extinction. She says logging, as one of “a combination of factors that takes place…in West Africa, and now in Central Africa, seems to be one of the primary ways in which bushmeat hunting has become commercialized and therefore unsustainable.”
Eves says effective ways to draw attention to bushmeat concerns is through factual media reporting. She strongly encourages an effective awareness campaign working with African experts to bring attention to the broader public and key decision makers.
She says it’s important for the shared information to include all the relevant perspectives, from hunters and traders to consumers and decision makers.
The Bushmeat Crisis Task Force director says general objectives should include effective enforcement of bushmeat conservation measures. This should be accomplished in conjunction with the communities involved who live closely with wildlife. The Task Force director underscores the need for protected areas where wildlife can re-populate into multiple use land areas.
In addition, Eves says there should be massive growth in alternative income opportunities. She adds that it’s important to provide protein alternatives to bushmeat and emphasize the need to conserve. The Task Force director reports that most Africans interviewed express a deep desire to have wildlife available for future generations in Africa. She says, “We certainly support that view and that vision, but unfortunately with the current rate of exploitation, and lack of resources to counteract it that vision will not be realized.”