Conservationists say the hunting of bushmeat, especially commercial hunting, is driving some wildlife species into extinction in West and Central Africa. What’s more, they say deadly health risks such as Ebola and Marburg are connected with bushmeat consumption. The issue is a major concern to The Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Elizabeth Bennett is director of the society’s hunting and wildlife trade program. In this second of a five-part series, she tells VOA English to Africa Service reporter Cole Mallard that the bushmeat business in Africa is “absolutely huge” and that at least a million tons of bushmeat is hunted every year in Central Africa alone.
Bennett says the African bushmeat trade tends to focus on mammals such as antelopes and primates like monkeys, “which is one of the reasons that it’s very emotional and people get very concerned…because [they are] species we really care about.”
EAST ASIA WILDMEAT
She says East Asia has a comparable bushmeat trade, although different species tend to be hunted and the trade is intended mostly for a luxury urban market. She says the East Asia trade focuses mainly on mammals but also includes many reptiles, such as turtles and snakes.
Bennett says in Vietnam’s Danang City alone, over a ton of wildlife meat is sold each week in just four restaurants; and Ho Chi Min City has about 1,500 restaurants that sell bushmeat, also known as wildlife meat.
The Wildlife Society official says subsistence hunting tends to be local, particularly in rain forests, where there’s very little alternative protein food. For example, she says in parts of rural Gabon, small-scale bushmeat hunting provides 60 percent of the protein consumed. Bennett says the hunted species, such as antelopes and small rodents, are fast breeding and tend to live close to humans.
Bennett says the long-distance commercial trade tends to be for urban luxury markets, so it’s more expensive than domestic meat.
The commercial bushmeat trade is heavily linked to the logging industry, which brings new roads into forests. This exposes big animals to hunters and threatens many species. Many hunters use shotguns, wires, snares, flashlights and four-wheel-drive vehicles, all of which make hunting more efficient.
Bennett says the biggest challenge to subsistence bushmeat hunting is assuring that it’s sustainable. She says rain forests “don’t produce much bushmeat…they only produce enough to support about one person per square kilometer.”