Bushmeat Trade in Central Africa Severely Underestimated - Increases as Forest Cover Declines


photo: Nick Hobgood via flickr.

New analysis of the bushmeat trade in central Africa by TRAFFIC shows that the scale of trade has been severely underestimated and is actually increasing as forest cover declines. By studying statistical data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the wildlife trade monitoring organization found that in some places the amount of game taken from forests is double that which is ecologically sustainable:That's in Cameroon, where the estimated sustainable hunt for bushmeat is estimated at 150kg per square kilometer. In Gabon and the Republic of Congo, the bushmeat take is equal to that limit. While in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bushmeat yields increased from 78,000 tons in 1990 to 90,000 tons in 2005. And this is all while overall area in the region covered by rainforest has declined.

When Animals Are Gone, So Is Livelihood for 34 Million People
Unsustainable levels of hunting aren't just bad for mammals though. The TRAFFIC report points out that for more than 34 million people in the Congo Basin bushmeat is key part of many people's livelihoods, and if the bushmeat trade collapses, both wildlife and people ultimately suffer.

Commercial Trade + Cash Economy Upset Natural Balance
Here's how the balance has shifted in the past two decades in the words of Nathalie van Vliet, TRAFFIC Bushmeat Strategic Advisor:

Local people have hunted for centuries, for food and for barter, but the last 20 years have seen the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market due to rural people being increasingly drawn into the cash economy.

The impacts of subsistence hunting was previously balanced by the fact of the hunting [being] done on a rotation basis on alternative tracts of forest areas. However, shifts in human population dynamics and socio-economic factors are leading to rising, and increasingly unsustainable demands on wild animal populations.

Here's the full report: Application of food balance sheets assess the scale of the bushmeat trade in Central Africa
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Tags: Africa | Animals | Conservation | Deforestation