Bush-Meat Ban Would Devastate Africa's Animals, Poor?

September 16, 2008

A blanket ban on hunting in tropical forests won't protect animals threatened by Africa's escalating bush-meat crisis, a new report warns.

What's more, a total crackdown on the trade could prove disastrous for local communities who have few alternative sources of protein and income, the study authors warn.

The report, led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, assessed the latest research on bush meat—wild animals killed for food—from the world's rain forest regions.

If current hunting levels persist in Central Africa, endangered mammals such as forest elephants and gorillas will become extinct, the study suggests.

Researchers estimated the region's current wild-meat harvest at more than a million tons annually—the equivalent of almost four million cattle.

(Related: "African Refugees Spurring Bush-Meat Trade" [January 22, 2008].)

Instead of banning the practice, the report recommends that hunting for non-threatened species be legalized and regulated to protect the food supply and livelihoods of forest people.

"If local people are guaranteed the benefits of sustainable land use and hunting practices, they will be willing to invest in sound management and negotiate selective hunting regimes," Frances Seymour, director general of CIFOR, said in a statement.

"Sustainable management of bush meat resources requires bringing the sector out into the open, removing the stigma of illegality, and including wild-meat consumption in national statistics and planning."

Poor Hunters

Making some bush meat legal would undermine the traders and exporters of illegal bush meat rather than poor subsistence hunters, the report says.

The study findings argue for legalized hunting for more abundant, fast-growing mammals such as duikers—a type of antelope—and rodents.

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