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Bushmeat: Wildlife Meat Trade

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  • Pages: 11
  • Word count: 2683
  • Category: Survival

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The need and want for bushmeat is extremely high for many different reasons. Bushmeat industry is an immense concern for animal conservation as well as for disease and pet trade in different part of the world such as the West and Central Africa. The term “bushmeat” to the media usually means the killing of wild animals purposely killed to be eaten. The true meaning of bushmeat according to Wikipedia is ‘meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds hunted for food in tropical forests. The only thing is that a great amount of those wild animals ends up being illegally hunted. Also, most of those animals are endangered; who already have some type of protection for them.

The main problem with the bushmeat is that those animals that are endangered and are killed do have some type of protection. Those “protection” isn’t protecting them as much as they should. The law enforcement in those countries is not doing an outstanding job protecting that wildlife. Not to mention that the villages close to the forest aren’t protecting their close neighbors either. The whole country and the rest of the world is having such a difficult time protecting species that are used for bushmeat and other uses. Even when those wildlife already have some protection set on them. Yet, we cannot be blind and just point finger at certain people.

There are several reasons behind the whole bushmeat industry that determine the type of species that have more of the pressure to get killed. From the meat getting sold for some very needed income to the hunter just trying to feed its family or itself. Bushmeat can be looked at in many ways. Some may believe that there’s nothing wrong with bushmeat and other would fight until they die to prove that there’s another way of getting meat and being the voice of those animals getting killed. Bushmeat is just part of a chain that has gotten out of control. Once one threat is introduced the rest of the threat just come falling down.

Bushmeat is a major item of consumption in many of those tropical areas worldwide. It is one of the items that does remain as the primary source of animal protein for most of the rural area families. The use of wildlife as consumption or display, as well as medicinal/ spiritual values in many human cultures is excessive. Bushmeat to many people is very important to have either consumed or displayed.

Biodiversity has had a major loss in the recent years that a sixth mass extinction event could be happening any time soon. In West Africa countries and the Congo basin, bushmeat is one of the leading threats to great apes. Not to mention monkeys, elephants, and any other species that hunter could get in the forests. The average loss rate of vertebrate species is 1000 time greater than the normal extinction rate. Meaning that population size of those vertebrate species has been declining rapidly.

The population of species declined on an average of 40 percent between 1970 and 2000. The main reasons for all those species losses are habitat destruction and direct exploitation (wildlife trade). Wildlife trade is a massive business that is worth billions and billions of dollars and there is a good amount of wildlife trade that is being done legally. Yet, the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade make a huge impact on the survival of those species capture and killed in the wild.

There are 504 primate species in 79 genera which are found worldwide. From those 504-primate species, about 60 percent are threatened with extinction due to hunting as well as trapping. Great apes and monkey are 1 out of 3 most hunted species, as a result of many of the primate population worldwide are decreasing, but not only because of hunting (Tagg, 2018). Even if great apes were hunted in a low amount it can still do exorbitant damage to its population because they have a slow life-history. Usually, a baby chimpanzee, for example, stays with its mother for at least 4-6 years. If the mother of those babies gets killed for the bushmeat the babies will end up in the pet trades.

The main source of protein to almost all of the rural populations is wild animal meat (bushmeat). The consumption and trade of bushmeat by us (human) is causing a significant extinction threat to wildlife population in places like Africa, South America, and Asia. An estimate of bushmeat being process across the Congo Basin can range from one to five million tonnes per year. In the Amazon, the hunter processed of bushmeat ranges about 23.5 million animals annually for food (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). In Asia, the harvest of wildlife trade is unknown due to it not being documented. Countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and many more are the major source of wildlife trade and consumed.

Ape meat, in rural communities and even in urban communities, that can get their hand on that ape meat, can be very desirable by the wealthy. Since the wealth is willing to pay big dollars for that type of meat it causes a chain. A great amount of hunter will go out hunting for those special species that could make the most money. Understanding the stages and the people involved in the great ape meat, or wildlife meat in general, chain become really important to pinpointing way of enforcing cost-effective and replacing part of the chains that are broken.

The riveting evidence of the current hunting showing how serious the threat is to the species and the ecosystem is impactful. There’s evidence that indicates that species that have an important function in the ecosystem, such as seed dispersers, and are being eliminated by overhunting, can lead to cascading alteration of the ecosystem. It can/does trigger numerous amounts of indirect effect, which alters the hunting population and the ecosystem. If wildlife keeps decreasing from forest ecosystem it could lead to the disruption of the ecological and evolutionary process, through the changes of species composition within the ecosystem and a reduction in biological diversity will be creating “Empty Forest” (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). Empty forest refers to according to Wikipedia ‘an ecosystem that is void of large mammals’. Anyways, wildlife is primarily hunted for their meat, but there’s the time that they’re using for other things. For example, African great apes such as chimpanzees (Pan spp) or Gorilla (Gorilla spp) are hunted for their meat, but sometimes for medicines, pet trade, or even trophies. However, great apes are prohibited cross the countries to be pursuing, capturing, and kill. It is very challenging to manage the conversation in the area that keeps on being heavily hunted for bushmeat.

Hunting for many of these rural areas provides a very important source of income and sometime this income is more important than the trade of agricultural products. In South East Gabon villages, 15-72 percent of the household income comes from hunting and it was even higher in remote communities (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). In Cameroon, Lebialem, Wright, and Priston bushmeat is a major source of income with a 33 percentage. Hunter earns an average of 597 USD per year and 60 percent of their income comes from hunting (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). This is pretty much their only way of getting income “because there is no other way of making money”. So, if there aren’t jobs available locally hunting will be the reliable job to fall back to.

The hunter is usually all men and there are types of hunters. For example, there are hunters that are opportunistic hunters, which mean that they only catch what is necessary and when the opportunity presents itself. Then there are specialized hunters that target specific wildlife for profit. There’s a study ‘A zoo-led study of the great ape bushmeat commodity chain in Cameroon’ that focus on the people involved in the whole transaction of bushmeat (ape-meat) within the rural areas mainly in the Camron. The study in a way touches the flow of ape meat to urban areas and to the member of wealth, but to a certain point for safety reasons. In this study, 61 percent of the hunter claim as opportunist hunter, 14 percent of specialized hunter and 25 percent of hunter refrained from categorizing themselves (Tagg, 2018). Hunting is for most part get practiced through the whole year even though hunter do occupied agriculture, fishing, domestic farming, traditional healing, or they’re employed in nearby forest companies.

When hunting for great apes, hunter tends to use home-made shotguns or commercially produced twelve-bore guns (Tagg, 2018). Gun used for hunting is either given as a gift, purchased in the village, or passed down from generation. In this study, they also recorded the presence of ‘Simplex’ weapons, which is a specific type of weapon used for “big-game” hunting. This weapon is usually used for larger animals especially elephants (an endangered species). The main type of ammunition used was buckshot, is a shotgun ammunition that uses large metal pellets in the shotgun shell, also locally known as ‘two-zero’. They also use other cartridges, locally known as ‘one-zero’.

Once the hunter kills the wildlife in this case, the apes, the ape is butchered in the forest and then carried back to the village. This could be done with the help of porters which might be already paid to accompany a specialized hunter. Yet, there are other carriers involved with moving the bushmeat around such as bush taxis, buses, private cars, and even logging trucks. Porters usually are hired by a middleman which paid them with money or in some case with bushmeat. Since, it is illegal to trade bushmeat, specifically ape-meat, people have to develop undercover strategies to transport the produce without getting caught or arrested.

In reality, the majority of rural Africa people, depend on any type of bushmeat that they could find. The consumption of bushmeat in the Congo Basin ranges from 14.6-97.6 kg (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). Due to hunting, it can provide between 30-80 percent of the overall protein intake in Central Africa rural household and as much as 100 percent of animal proteins (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011). As well as Southern and Eastern Africa rural communities rely on bushmeat for most of their nutrition. In figure two, is a graph that shows the human consumption of specific species and other threats.

There was a recent study in Tanzania that shows the consumption of bushmeat in communities close to Serengeti National Park that depends on those locations and the ethnical group. There have been serval studies that have documented bushmeat consumption, but they’re not up to date. Marine and freshwater fish is the primary protein in West Africa. A range of 20 percent of bushmeat is consumed by rural people living close to Nigeria’s rain forest area, in Ghana about 75 percent in consumed, and in Liberia it could be as much as 80-90 percent (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011).

In South America, there is a studies that focus on more on the Amazon region mainly the indigenous communities. These communities usually live a traditional lifestyle and mostly rely on their hunters for food. That being said bushmeat is an important part of their livelihood. The one that really relied more on bushmeat are the communities that tend to practice more seasonal migrant labor and mining/logging workers. In South East Asia, Bushmeat is not the main consumption in these areas, but it still remains high due to luxury viewing of eating bushmeat and in remote forest area the price for it is often less than half the price of domesticated animals.

In urban communities, the consumption of bushmeat occurs mostly in black markets. The black market is an illegal trafficking or trading of good in violation of official regulation. Bushmeat would not be displayed out in the open in these markets, but if it’s asked for a certain type of bushmeat the seller most likely will have it. According to the Cameroon study, when consumers were interviewed (informally) about an alternative to bushmeat a common trend was received. It was stating that ape meat, for example, is consumed for the flavor that it has. One thing we need to remember is that someone of the villages consumes ape meat because it has a meaning to it or its tradition. For example, in the Lomie area consuming the chest, hands, and ribs of a gorilla is considered symbols of strength, respect, courage, skill, and affordable superiority (Tagg, 2018). So, it is and will be hard to change the mind of millions of consumers to start eating an alternative meat instead of bushmeat

Alternative meat. Base on the study ‘A zoo-led study of the great ape bushmeat commodity chain in Cameroon’, said that about 49 percent (25 out of 51) of the hunter claimed that they would stop hunting if there was a viable alternative (Tagg, 2018). Meaning that if there’s paid employment or if they get some type of funds to have agricultural/livestock activities they would go with the alternative route. The remaining 51 percent of the hunter said that they will not stop hunting even if there was an alternative. They would not stop because of the very need and ver income and the importance of keeping a tradition. It is very important to understand why people like to consume bushmeat and how that plays a role in their household nutrition and income.

In order to develop the politically acceptable way to manage the consumption, hunting, and trading of wildlife that need to be reviewed. If bushmeat is consumed because the price of it is cheaper then bringing the price up could affect the demand for buying bushmeat. If bushmeat is consumed because of the flavor that it brings increasing the price of it might not do anything. Also, bushmeat is used for a special occasion due to the culturally significant so it’s very difficult to demand change. If given alternative meat such as cows or chicken can it changes the mind of those rural villages, then maybe there could be some progress with decreasing bushmeat. The thing is hunger and the need for nourishment for sure influence the food choice. As well as the availability and culture norms. Many believe that familiar flavors and aromas are preferred by human and once introduced unfamiliar flavors there’s a negative reaction.

The world population at the moment, as of November 2018, is at an estimated of 7.7 billion of people. In Africa, the population is 1.2 billion of people, 4.54 billion in Asia, 4.2 million in South America. Human populations has become a very huge issues for many reason. For that reason, there is a huge demand of food which ties with the amount of bushmeat. In Africa, for example, there’s 1.2 billion of people living there. Just in Cameroon there is about 2.4 million people living there. That 2.4 million of people that needs to be fed at least twice a day. There is about an estimate of 80-120 thousand of chimpanzee left, but they’re one of the species that is threat by bushmeat. Chimpanzee are protected by the law because they’re endangered, but that does stop hunter that need the money or that needs to find their family. Anyways, it might sounds horrible, but human population need some type of control to lower the demand of food such as bushmeat. Birth control will be one of ways to start lowering the demand of bushmeat as well as the other threats.

Birth control is an off-topic issues that could really help with the demand of bushmeat. If there were more birth control in the world it could help prevent the extinction of species. Since, human are the one on top of the food chain why don’t we start from them? If we start educating rural areas about birth control and push it more in urban areas. Maybe we could control the amount of bushmeat being trade by control the amount of people that need that type of meat.

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