The term 'bushmeat' is originally an African term for wildlife species that are hunted for human consumption.
In October 2000, the IUCN World Conservation Congress passed a resolution on the unsustainable commercial trade in wild meat. Affected countries were urged to recognise the increasing impact of the bushmeat trade, to strengthen and enforce legislation, and to develop action programmes to mitigate the impact of the trade. Donor organisations were requested to provide funding for the implementation of such programmes.
Wildlife hunting for food is important for the livelihood security of and supply of dietary protein for poor people. It can be sustainable when carried out by traditional hunter-gatherers in large landscapes for their own consumption. Due to the extent of bushmeat hunting for trade in markets, the survival of those species that are large-bodied and reproduce slowly is threatened. The term bushmeat crisis was coined in 2007 and refers to this dual threat of depleting food resources and wildlife extinctions, both entailed by the bushmeat trade.
To overcome the bushmeat crisis, it has been suggested to:
increase access of consumers to affordable and reliable alternative sources of animal protein such as chicken, small livestock and farmed fish raised at family level;
devolve rights and authority over wildlife to local communities;
The volume of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa was estimated at 1-5 million tonnes per year at the turn of the 21st century. In 2002, it was estimated that 24 species weighing more than 10 kg (22 lb) contribute 177.7 kg/km2 (1,015 lb/sq mi) of meat per year to the bushmeat extracted in the Congo Basin. Species weighing more than 10 kg (22 lb) were estimated to contribute 35.4 kg/km2 (202 lb/sq mi). Bushmeat extraction in the Amazon rainforest was estimated to be much lower, at 3.6 kg/km2 (21 lb/sq mi) in the case of species weighing more than 10 kg and 0.6 kg/km2 (3.4 lb/sq mi) in the case of species weighing less than 10 kg.
Based on these estimates, a total of 2,200,000 t (2,200,000 long tons; 2,400,000 short tons) bushmeat is extracted in the Congo Basin per year, ranging from 12,937.737 t (12,733.405 long tons; 14,261.414 short tons) in Equatorial Guinea to 1,665,972.491 t (1,639,661.000 long tons; 1,836,420.321 short tons) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The 301 mammal species threatened by hunting for bushmeat comprise 126 primates, 65 even-toed ungulates, 27 bats, 26 diprotodont marsupials, 21 rodents, 12 carnivores and all pangolin species.
A gorilla in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2008
Between 1983 and 2002, the Gabon populations of western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) were estimated to have declined by 56%. This decline was primarily caused by the commercial hunting, which was facilitated by the extended infrastructure for logging purposes.Marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus) and long-nosed mongoose (Herpestes naso) are the most numerous small carnivores offered in rural bushmeat markets in the country.
Lemurs and great apes are killed for bushmeat despite this being illegal. Pictured: Two men with weapons and their prey arranged on display.
Logging concessions operated by companies in African forests have been closely linked to the bushmeat trade. Because they provide roads, trucks and other access to remote forests, they are the primary means for the transportation of hunters and meat between forests and urban centres. Some, including the Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB) in the Republic of Congo, partnered with governments and international conservation organizations to regulate the bushmeat trade within the concessions where they operate. Numerous solutions are needed; because each country has different circumstances, traditions and laws, no one solution will work in every location.
In the case of Ghana, international illegal over-exploitation of African fishing grounds has increased demand for bushmeat. Both European Union-subsidized fleets and local commercial fleets have depleted fish stocks, leaving local people to supplement their diets with animals hunted from nature reserves. Over 30 years of data link sharp declines in both mammal populations and the biomass of 41 wildlife species with a decreased supply of fish.
Outbreaks of the Ebola virus in the Congo Basin and in Gabon in the 1990s have been associated with the butchering and consumption of chimpanzees and bonobos. Bushmeat hunters in Central Africa infected with the human T-lymphotropic virus were closely exposed to wild primates.Anthrax can be transmitted when butchering and eating ungulates. The risk of bloodborne diseases to be transmitted is higher when butchering a carcass than when transporting, cooking and eating it.
Many hunters and traders are not aware of zoonosis and the risks of disease transmissions.
An interview survey in rural communities in Nigeria revealed that 55% of the respondents knew of zoonoses, but their education and cultural traditions are important drivers for hunting and eating bushmeat despite the risks involved.
Results of research on wild chimpanzees in Cameroon indicate that they are naturally infected with the simian foamy virus and constitute a reservoir of HIV-1, a precursor of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans. There are several distinct strains of HIV, indicating that this cross-species transfer has occurred several times.Simian immunodeficiency virus present in chimpanzees is reportedly derived from older strains of the virus present in the collared mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus) and the putty-nosed monkey. It is likely that HIV was initially transferred to humans after having come into contact with infected bushmeat.
Between October 2001 and December 2003, five Ebola virus outbreaks occurred in the border area between Gabon and Republic of Congo. Autopsies of wildlife carcasses showed that chimpanzees, gorillas and bay duikers were infected with the virus.
The Ebola virus has been linked to bushmeat, with the primary host suspected to be fruit bats. Between the first recorded outbreak in 1976 and the largest in 2014, the virus has transferred from animals to humans only 30 times, despite large numbers of bats being killed and sold each year. Bats drop partially eaten fruits and pulp, then terrestrial mammals such as gorillas and duikers feed on these fruits. This chain of events forms a possible indirect means of transmission from the natural host to animal populations.
The Ebola outbreak near the Luebo river in south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 2007 was traced back to hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) and Franquet's epauletted fruit bat (Epomops franqueti) colonies. Both species had migrated to fruiting trees on islands in the river and were killed for consumption every day.
The suspected index case for the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa in 2014 was a two-year-old boy in Meliandou in south-eastern Guinea, who played in a hollow tree harbouring a colony of Angolan free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus).
Results of a study conducted during the Ebola crisis in Liberia showed that socio-economic conditions impacted bushmeat consumption. During the crisis, there was a decrease in bushmeat consumption and daily meal frequency. In addition, preferences for bushmeat species stayed the same.
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