Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?

By Eliza Strickland | September 16, 2008 12:31 pm

bushmeatThe debate over bushmeat, meat from wild animals like gorillas, elephants, and antelope in Central Africa, just got more complicated. While some environmentalists have argued that a strict hunting ban is the only way to save endangered animals, a new report from the non-profit Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) argues that a blanket hunting ban would help neither the animals nor the people who depend on them for food.

However, bushmeat hunting also can’t continue at its current rate, the report states. “If current levels of hunting persist in Central Africa, bush meat protein supplies will fall dramatically, and a significant number of forest mammals will become extinct in less than 50 years” [Telegraph], says report author Robert Nasi. The best solution is to legalize some hunting while enacting tough regulations and enforcement, says CIFOR director Frances Seymour: “Criminalising the whole issue of bushmeat simply drives it underground. We need to decriminalise parts of this hunting and trade and give local communities the rights and incentives to manage these resources sustainably for their own benefit” [BBC News].

The report says that bushmeat is a vital resource for local communities: bushmeat currently provides up to 80 percent of the protein and fat needed in rural diets in Central Africa, a region that is rife with poverty…. “People that eat bushmeat or sell bushmeat to pay for medicines or school fees of their children, should not be presented as ‘criminals,'” said Nathalie Van Vliet, an associate expert for CIFOR in Cameroon [LiveScience]. The report suggests that people could sustainably hunt some common antelope and large rodents, while leaving the larger animals like endangered primates alone.

However, a peek inside a restaurant in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaounde, reveals that an appetite exists for larger and more exotic animals, and officials might have a difficult time cutting off the supply. Elegant waitresses offer patrons a menu of mainly common game — pangolin, antelope, bush pig, monkey, cane rat and viper…. But in a fridge outside, a Reuters reporter saw two arms of what appeared to be a gorilla or a chimpanzee — thick black fur and hands still attached — together with a piece of what a restaurant employee said was elephant meat. “If you want to eat meat of big animals like chimpanzee, gorilla and even the elephant, you make a special arrangement with her and she will supply it to you,” a military officer who frequents the restaurant said of the owner [Reuters].

Recently, bushmeat has been turning up in American and European markets; read about it in the DISCOVER article, “Extinction–It’s What’s for Dinner.”

Image: CIFOR/Nathalie van Vliet

Related Post: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • http://www.a2q.com Jay Warner

    The question is not whether we can save gorillas without starving people. It is whether we can save the people. Period. Th gorilla population clearly cannot survive the human predation it is receiving. We (especially the people in the local area) are ‘mining’ the land of its output. Unless we behave differently, the output of the land will go away, and we will be left to starve. On a local level, we probably need to let the gorillas (and other bush animals) be, while we find ways to sustainably harvest the rest of the land. The same is true for people in other areas of the world, including the US. Every salt seep springing up in Montana means more acreage indefinitely lost to (human) production. Every inch of topsoil lost from Iowa brings us closer to the desertification of that state. (In some parts of that state, it goes by multiple inches per decade.) The cod fish is effectively gone, as well.

    Time to get real. We are not living sustainably. When do we start changing?

  • Samantha

    It’s a disgusting idea to eat any animal especially a gorilla. The starving people need to go eat some vegetables, grains???!!! They don’t need to be eating meat. Especially not the meat of endangered animals. I think if they want to eat it they deserve to die! They can survive without meat!

  • Morgan

    Depending on their location, the soil and vegetation, and viable crops, it may be that meat is necessary for them to survive. Whether or not they should be eating endangered species is certainly worthy of debate, but a more productive discussion would concern their options. Given incentive and alternatives, it would most likely be possible to change their diets.

    Thank you for your comment, Jay, I agree completely in that we, as humans, cannot continue to strain our planet to the breaking point. It isn’t just irresponsible, but unethical and risky.

    For those interested, I would suggest reading this (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/science/nature/6091334.stm) article from the BBC written by Eugene Lapointe, then head of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), on hunting bans, and theoretical alternatives that might result in higher conservation rates.

    Unfortunately, we are much better at stripping ecosystems of their resources and members than we are at teasing them into flourishing and healthy homes for the species they support.

  • Stephanie

    I agree with Samantha. It’s disgusting to eat any animal especially gorillas, who are great apes just like humans, which means that they have emotions and cognitive abilities very similar to ours. We should give our fellow great apes equal consideration to humans and in order to preserve them a hunting ban should be made law and enforced properly to avoid the underground market.

    Those saying that the Africans need the meat to survive are blind to the fact that all the animals they say they need to hunt are herbivores, so those people can just as easily live on grains, nuts and seeds.

    We should not just help humans as humans are not the only species we share this planet with. Besides, humans are over-populationg so it’s a good thing for the rest of the planet if a few of us don’t make it. I would much rather help animals anyway.

  • http://dyzzuq.com/nyyrat.html Emmanuel Rush

    good luck

  • lily

    yo samantha, ever seen those awful ads full of babies with bloated bellies? that my dear, is the result of protein deficiency. your body’s made out of protein, you need to eat it for sustenance and growth and not everybody digs tofu. in the us it is, for the most part, culturally acceptable to shoot and eat deer. well guess what’s running through their backyard? cheaper to hunt meat than to buy it, it’s free! except when it runs out of course…

  • http://howfastismyinternetconnection1.shutterfly.com/21 Val Schlenz

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