Published 10 June 2011


Experts urge better regulation of ‘bushmeat’ trade

Nairobi, Kenya, 10th June 2011—A growing and lucrative illegal international commercial trade in the meat and other parts of wild mammals, birds and reptiles (‘bushmeat’) is causing widespread loss of biodiversity, imperilling the livelihoods of communities around the world, and destabilising fragile tropical forest ecosystems, leading to ‘empty forest syndrome’, concluded international experts who met this week in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Great ape meat on sale at the border between Gabon and the Republic of Congo. © TRAFFIC / Clement INKAMBA NKULU

According to the experts, who represented 43 governments and United Nations agencies, international and national organizations—including TRAFFIC—and indigenous and local community organizations, the growing domestic trade in bushmeat between rural areas and urban markets is increasingly threatening food security, in particular in Central Africa. 

In the Congo Basin, for example, increasing population and trade from rural to urban areas compounded with the lack of any sizeable domestic meat sector are the main causes of unsustainable levels of hunting. 

Over-hunting of tropical and sub-tropical wildlife also jeopardizes the livelihoods of local and indigenous people as well as the long-term stability of forest ecosystem services and their economic utilization, including timber production and carbon storage. 

“We see legitimate subsistence hunting being replaced by commercial hunting and trade of often endangered species in tropical forests, including elephants and primates,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

National economies and governments also lose significant revenue if wildlife resources are managed poorly. For example, in the Central African Republic, the unregulated bushmeat trade is worth an estimated 72 million USD per year. 

The meeting made a number of key recommendations, including implementing community wildlife management and other improved wildlife management approaches such as game ranching, and hunting tourism; increasing the raising of wild animals such as cane rats in small farms; and supporting the sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products other than wild meat. 

The meeting also recognized the need to clarify and define land tenure and access rights, improve monitoring of bushmeat harvesting and trade, and enhance bushmeat-related law enforcement.

John Scanlon, Secretary-General to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), said: “Tackling the impact of unsustainable and illegal trade in bushmeat is critical for protecting the livelihoods of rural people and conserving wildlife in biodiversity-rich areas.”

Roland Melisch, TRAFFIC’s Senior Director for Africa and Europe noted: “TRAFFIC has been at the forefront of efforts to address the current unsustainable trade in wild-sourced meat, and has, jointly with the Central African Forest Commission COMIFAC, developed a monitoring system to enable the bushmeat trade to be better managed in the Central African region, as well as ‘bushmeat’ initiatives elsewhere in Africa in South America that helped improve the food security of rural human populations.” 

In 2008, TRAFFIC also recommended the decriminalization and open management of the wild meat resources for refugee populations living in Tanzania.

“Stemming the loss of forest fauna will require co-ordinated action between international actors working on forest and wildlife management, conservation of biodiversity, wildlife trade regulation, law enforcement and health officials, and TRAFFIC is ready and able to assist those efforts,” said Melisch. 

The Nairobi meeting was co-organized by the CITES and the CBD Secretariats, with support of other partners, including TRAFFIC.

Further information, including a final report and background documents for the meeting.