Bushmeat in West and Central Africa

Kenya Savannah

ZSL has worked to understand and reduce the damage to forest ecosystems in West and Central Africa caused by over-hunting of forest species.


Bushmeat is the meat of wild animals hunted for meat to sell or eat. There is an urgent need to develop successful initiatives that will ensure the sustainability of bushmeat harvesting in the long term, both to protect threatened biodiversity and to secure the social and economic values of bushmeat for local communities. ZSL’s Institute of Zoology's Bushmeat Research Programme has carried out research on the biological, economic and social aspects of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa to enable the development of a sound conservation plan.

Why we are there

Increasingly unsustainable levels of hunting and trade have made the harvesting of wild meat a serious global concern. In the tropical forests of West and Central Africa there is a particularly severe ‘bushmeat crisis’. Extinctions resulting from unsustainable levels of hunting will not only threaten ecosystem services but are also likely to seriously impact upon the security of food sources and livelihoods of people who depend on these natural resources.

Key achievements and goals

ZSL’s research used a variety of approaches, including field research and mathematical modelling. This knowledge is invaluable for policy-makers and project managers to develop effective methods of hunting regulation and sustainable management.

The conclusions from bushmeat research have also been used in ZSL’s conservation projects in the region, working with timber companies, protected area authorities and local communities to tackle the unsustainable bushmeat trade. ZSL has now completed its operations in Gabon.  

Find out more: Bushmeat Research Programme

Bushmeat Working Group

The UK Bushmeat Working Group (UKBWG) meets regularly to discuss trade in bushmeat, especially as affected by forestry issues and in the context of development, sustainable livelihoods and conservation. ZSL has convened a number of UKBWG meetings to discuss bushmeat research, management and policy, and is currently acting as the Secretariat for the UK Bushmeat Working Group

Find out more: UK Bushmeat Working Group

Finding alternatives to bushmeat

One of the only ways to prevent the continued overhunting for bushmeat is to find viable alternative food and income sources for local communities. In 2009, ZSL began a new project alongside other NGOs, working with local communities to  find these alternatives, such as keeping livestock on small scales and improving the marketing of forest plant products. This project relied on a solid foundation of research from ZSL’s past work in the area.

Programme information


This project will help forest species, such as pangolins and porcupine

People involved

  • ZSL’s Chris Ransom and Dr. Noelle Kumpel are managing the bushmeat project from London

Partners and sponsors

  • Imperial College, London; Conservation International; Instituto Nacional para el Desarrollo Forestal y Areas Protegidas; Central African Regional Program for the Environment (USAID); Amigos de la Naturaleza y del Desarrollo de Guinea Ecuatorial (ANDEGE); ECOFAC
  • Kindly funded by: Darwin Initiative; USFWS - Great Ape Conservation Fund; Mohammed bin Zayed Species Fund; SeaWorld/Busch Gardens; Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation; Hess Equatorial Guinea, Inc.


  • 2013: Unfortunately, due to the dangers from political unrest, ZSL has had to pull out all operations from this region.


The UK Bushmeat Working Group (UKBWG) meets regularly to discuss trade in bushmeat, especially as affected by forestry issues and in the context of development, sustainable livelihoods and conservation.

The group is open to all representatives of key UK Government departments, the timber and other relevant industries, conservation and development NGOs and other national or international bodies and individuals with an interest in bushmeat issues. These include development agencies, conservation organisations, charities bringing relief and aid to tropical forest countries, human rights organisations, academic departments and training centres, and commercial, industrial and trade organisations, amongst others.

The UKBWG’s specific mandate is, with reference to trade in bushmeat in the context of development, conservation and sustainable livelihoods, to assist the exchange of information, to improve understanding, to build consensus through dialogue and debate and to disseminate the results as appropriate among its members and more widely through links to other organisations both within the UK and abroad.

The UKBWG was established in 1999 under the UK Tropical Forest Forum, an independent association created in 1990 in response to the growing concern within Britain for the future of tropical forests. In 2006, with funding from DEFRA, ZSL assumed responsibility for facilitating and administering the UKBWG, convening meetings and disseminating information to its members.

Policy reports

UK Bushmeat Working Group: recent meeting reports