ZSL takes action on the bushmeat trade
Wednesday 10 September 2003
ZSL is working towards finding solutions to the bushmeat crisis under its Bushmeat and Forests Conservation Programme. The ZSL strategy combines both species protection and sustainable use approaches in a mixture that balances conservation and development needs
Global biodiversity is constantly under threat and now the consumption and trade of wild meat, or bushmeat, is considered one of its largest concerns. The scale and severity of wild meat demand is perhaps most devastating in tropical Africa, where the unsustainable hunting of wild animals has led to a 'bushmeat crisis' that threatens myriad species with extinction, including our closest relatives the great apes (gorillas and chimpanzees).
Recent research carried out by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) suggests that the current situation is even more serious than previously thought. A new study in central Africa suggests that the bushmeat crisis not only threatens wildlife but also poor households that depend on bushmeat as a source of food and cash income.
The hunting of vulnerable species and the illegal hunting of all species in protected areas must be stopped. ZSL are helping to achieve this goal through a variety of activities, including a gorilla ecotourism project at Lope National Park in Gabon and through law-enforcement monitoring at five national parks in Democratic Republic of Congo.
At the same time, the legal trade in bushmeat from species that can sustain heavy hunting should be carefully managed to secure its sustainability. ZSL scientists have recently developed a computer model of a virtual bushmeat hunting system. This model is now being used to investigate the best management policies to ensure that the bushmeat harvest is sustainable.
Using this multifaceted approach, ZSL has two goals. To protect species from extinction and to protect poor households from losing a crucial resource.
Dr Guy Cowlishaw, research fellow, ZSL, commented: "Bushmeat can be very emotive issue and some of the pictures that come out of the bushmeat markets can be quite horrifying to western eyes but the important thing to remember is that people who are hunting and eating bushmeat generally do not have any other options," "It would be a crisis if the bushmeat resource disappeared. We have a duty to make sure it remains for local people and is sustainable for the future of the species affected by it."
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