Development in Equatorial Guinea Fuels Unchecked Bushmeat Crisis
Tuesday 28 September 2004
New research from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), presented at the Bushmeat & Livelihoods Conference, has revealed that rapid development in Equatorial Guinea is fuelling a bushmeat crisis
The recent oil boom has made Equatorial Guinea one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As a result, a growing and increasingly wealthy urban population is creating an unchecked demand for bushmeat, pushing a variety of species, such as the rare black colobus monkey, to the edge of extinction.
Noëlle Kümpel, ZSL and Imperial College PhD Student, spent 18 months in Equatorial Guinea looking at the sustainability of bushmeat hunting in and around a major national park. Her research has shown that a high level of trapping has depleted numbers of terrestrial animals. This, aided by the increased availability and lower cost of firearms, has triggered a switch by some trappers to hunting with guns. Arboreal primates, like the black colobus monkey, are easy prey for guns, so as a result of this change in hunting methods, they are now commonly seen for sale in urban markets. It is this change in practice that is putting further pressure on already vulnerable animals.
"The bushmeat trade now poses a very real threat to a wide variety of species. In order to make the trade sustainable, we need to understand why people eat bushmeat in the first place - in other words whether it is through choice or necessity - as well as the quantity consumed, before we can even contemplate managing the issue," commented Noëlle Kümpel. "Through research like this project, ZSL is working to find a manageable solution to the problem of unsustainable hunting."
Development activities also mean that roads have been built and improved, which in turn has meant that bushmeat can be transported further from the hunting site, so increasing the supply of this commodity.
ZSL's research has also revealed that although bushmeat is not a particularly favoured meal for many people in Equatorial Guinea, it is in high demand due to the lack of other fresh meat or fish available. Fresh meat and fish is greatly preferred over frozen items, even though the latter is cheaper and commonly available in local markets. However, fresh alternatives to bushmeat are hard to find in the absence of large-scale fisheries or livestock production in the area.
The results of this research show that if there was a viable alternative to bushmeat available, through livestock farming or fishing, then demand for bushmeat should decrease. However, without the provision of alternative livelihoods, hunting will continue as it is often the only way that rural people can earn an income. As a result of this research ZSL is working with both UK and local governments to work towards a managed, sustainable trade in bushmeat.
Bushmeat facts and figures
- Bushmeat is wild animals taken for food from African forests or savannah
- It is estimated that between one and five million tonnes of bushmeat are extracted per year from the Congo Basin alone
- The national value of the bushmeat trade in sub-Saharan African countries range between US$20 million to US$200 million
- Bushmeat supplies 50-85% of the protein requirements of tropical forest-dwelling communities in Africa
- Although per capita income from hunting in a rural village in continental Equatorial Guinea was half that of the average earnings from a job, because jobs are in short supply, income from hunting was the most important source of income for the village as a whole
- Wild foods are an important resource for an estimated 150 million poor people worldwide
- Hunting pressure has been specifically identified as a threat for 84 mammalian species and subspecies from West and Central Africa (IUCN, 2000)
For further information and images, please contact:
Nathalie Golden, ZSL Senior PR Officer
Tel. 020 7449 6280
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