What is Bushmeat?

Bushmeat, or wild meat, is obtained by hunting wild animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and crocodiles, posing threats to the wildlife and human consumers alike.

5. Overview

Bushmeat, or wild meat, is acquired by hunting such wild animals as guinea fowls, crocodiles, gorillas, bush pigs, chimpanzees, porcupines, pangolins, rabbits, cane rat, deer, and monitor lizards. These selection of wild meat are used for everyday food by the indigenous peoples of Africa. Being poor, deprived, and having the practice traditionally ingrained into daily life are some of the reasons why certain African populations consume bushmeat. However, this practice is not limited to Africa, as in some Asian countries the natives also engage in eating bushmeat such as monitor lizards and bats. The popularity of bushmeat is due to prevalent hunger and also due to easy access to these particular meats as forests become easily accessible with roads being built as logging companies penetrate deeper into forests for access to timber. Bushmeat hunting and consumption is a direct threat to the survival of wildlife species in the forests of Africa and Asia.

4. Factors Favoring Bushmeat Trade

The popularity of bushmeat as everyday food was made a necessity by war and poverty, many people would eat wildlife instead of going hungry. In Africa, where human population has increasingly grown especially in countries where war never ends, bushmeat is a ready substitute for safe food. Some people say that it is an unavoidable source of protein for indigenous African families who have no other source of sustenance. Still, even in some market areas in Africa where domestically raised and safer meat is readily available, people still prefer bushmeat. Liberia has a tradition of eating bushmeat as a delicacy. Overfishing has also contributed to the problem where fish stocks are already depleted. The popularity of bushmeat is similar to the economics of supply and demand.

3. Areas Where Bushmeat is Popular

In Africa, bushmeat has become a survival issue both for man and animals alike. Some regions in West and Central Africa, along the Congo River, Equatorial Guinea, and some Asian countries have indigenous peoples who consume bushmeat and even prefer this type of sustenance. Countries where food is scarce due to civil war where the army or militia have only wild meat as source of food has made bushmeat popular. A 2006 study by Ape Alliance revealed that 34 million people inhabitants of Central African forests consume about 1.1 million metric ton of bushmeat yearly. The West African bushmeat problem is exacerbated by the ever increasing human population who now partially depend on rat meat for sustenance according to a Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF) report in 2004.

2. Role in Spread of Diseases

Incurring serious maladies from eating bushmeat is not a big consideration. In some areas of Africa where bushmeat eating is popular, some even consider it as a powerful health-giving sustenance but in-fact has only brought deadly epidemics. In some areas, total populations have been wiped out by Ebola and HIV viruses. Fruit bats have been linked to the ebola virus. Primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees have been diagnosed as having simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), similar to HIV in humans. Obviously, there is an indirect chain of transmission that has allowed the virus to jump from animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases are animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. There are about 1,415 known pathogens that cause diseases in humans and 61% are of zoonotic origins.

1. Threats and Conservation

Conservation issues are always a difficult dilemma when it comes to African wildlife. The most vulnerable animal species are the gorillas and the chimpanzees whose meat are sold as bushmeat and considered as having curative powers. However, hunting them down even in fewer numbers compared to other animal species is still unsustainable. Gorillas and chimpanzees breed at a very slow pace and the death of an individual results in a serious breakup of their social structures. Poaching is another problem that is widespread in Africa and does not respect international borders. Former militias are perennial poachers who kill and sell elephant ivory. Trophy hunters have also exacerbated the conservation issue by hiring professional hunter guides to enable them to secure their animal trophy of choice.

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