TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Imperiled Riches—Threatened Rainforests

The Expanding African Bush Meat Trade

Today the visitor to many Central African cities like Kinshasa (Zaire-now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Brazzaville (Congo), Ouesso (Congo), Bangui (Central African Republic), Libreville (Gabon), and Yaound (Cameroon) can purchase the meat of virtually any forest animal, endangered or not, whether it be gorilla, chimpanzee, monkey, pangolin, duiker, antelope, forest cat, crocodile, flying fox, eagle, monitor lizard, elephant, turtle, hippo, snake, or civet. Demand for bush meat is driven by the desire for protein, not necessarily the animal source of the protein -- the popularity for which varies from market to market. In Gabon, McRae reports that annual per capita consumption of bush meat may reach eight pounds annually.

The expanding urban and rural demand for bush meat is driven by robust population growth in these sub-Sahara countries. The availability of bush meat is made possible by the logging industry whose road construction opens stretches of rainforest to hunters and settlers. Villages sprout up regularly and the population of established villages grows rapidly.

Hunters can subsist selling bushmeat is passing loggers, traders, and local villagers. According to McRae (1997), a smoked gorilla can fetch about US$40 for the hunters, a chimp, US$20, and a monkey, US$5. The majority of bushmeat reaches market on the logging trucks, returning to cities with their freshly cut timber. The International Primate Protection League estimates that 400-600 gorillas are killed each year in Congo alone by poachers, many of whom follow logging roads deep into the forest interior.

The trade continues to prosper despite the 1996 Bertoua (Cameroon) Conference agreement to crack down in on "bushmeat" organized by the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The conference sought to bring all parties (logging, governmental, local, conservation) together to discuss the issue. Among the things accomplished by the conference was limiting of the production of chevrotine cartridges, shotgun shells used for hunting large, protected game.

As more logging roads open up the most remote African rainforests, regional bush meat hunting will expand as the trees continue to fall. Unfortunately the trade of bush meat will continue to flourish until hunters are provided with another viable option to make a living.

Article on bushmeat in Indonesia
The Congo Rainforest


Continued: Economic Restructuring

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