Rising food prices, another rash of crop failures and the wide-ranging impacts of the global recession, will lead to a rise in the ‘bushmeat’ trade in Kenya, according to international wildlife charity, Born Free. The snaring of wild animals and consumption of their meat, known as ‘bushmeat’, is one of the most serious threats facing wildlife in Kenya today. In some areas the commercial bushmeat trade is threatening to wipe out Kenya’s precious natural heritage entirely.
Bushmeat also affects us here in the UK. Latest figures indicate that nearly 7,500 tonnes of illegal meat products enter Britain every year. Some of this meat is believed to be bushmeat brought into the UK disguised as ‘beef’. Once in the UK, more than half (55%) of the illegal meat is distributed through wholesalers or sold at local street markets.
Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, states: ‘Over the last few years the UK Law Enforcement Agencies have become increasingly aware of the illegal importation of bushmeat which is commonly described as the meat of any wild animal hunted for food.This type of meat can and does from time to time contain parts of endangered species. The practice of introducing bushmeat into the UK illegally will clearly pose some risk of transmitting disease. The main risks are to human health from food poisoning having consumed putrid meat and clearly the endangerment of rare or endangered species. With this in mind it is important that those individuals entering or transiting the UK do not attempt to enter the UK borders without appropriate documentation.'
A new film, produced by the Born Free Foundation in conjunction with Land Rover, has been created to raise awareness of this important issue and provide an insight into some of the challenges faced by those in Kenya trying to bring a stop to the trade.
Wild animals all over Africa, from giraffe to zebra, and even endangered species such as gorillas and elephants, are snared by poachers, butchered, and then transported to city markets and restaurants across the globe as part of a widespread commercial trade. This bloody business not only impacts wild animal populations, it also poses a serious threat to human health with the transmission of anthrax, foot and mouth and TB being highlighted as potential risks.
The illegal commercial trade in bushmeat is closely monitored by wildlife experts at the Born Free Foundation, who use Land Rovers in Kenya to travel to snaring hot-spots, where thousands of deadly snares are located and disassembled every year. Born Free also raises awareness with Kenyan communities about the dangers of the illicit trade. Research carried out by Born Free in 2004, indicated that as much as 40% of meat being sold as beef or goat in certain Nairobi butcheries was either wholly or partially bushmeat.
Mr Julius Kipng'etich, Director Kenya Wildlife Service asserts: “The commercial bushmeat trade is a conservation challenge that Kenya Wildlife Service takes very seriously. While the rangers are active throughout our National Parks to control this epidemic, we appreciate the long-standing support of Born Free, other NGOs and many Kenyan volunteers who, together with Land Rover, are actively removing snares from wildlife areas outside of the parks where the problem persists."
Chief Executive of Born Free, Will Travers, stated, “Working with Land Rover and the Kenya Wildlife Service, we are attempting to halt the illegal and unsustainable commercial bushmeat trade. KWS has been making a serious effort in this area but it's a huge challenge. That’s why charities such as Born Free have to assist in whatever way they can. We hope that this new film will highlight the very grave threat that the bushmeat trade poses to the wildlife and human communities in Africa and will encourage support for the important work being undertaken by KWS.”
Ian Redmond OBE, Born Free’s Senior Wildlife Consultant and United Nations Ambassador for Year of the Gorilla explained: “The commercial bushmeat trade is out of control. Tackling the poachers, to quote the late David Sheldrick, needs “good vehicles, good communications and good men”. Land Rover helps Born Free with the first of these priorities and the brave rangers of KWS represent the latter. But this is not just about saving individual animals, important as that is. It is about preserving functioning eco-systems that bring benefits to every person on the planet. The ecosystem services provided by Africa’s forests and savannahs include rainfall, carbon storage and stabilizing the global climate, so we all have an interest in preventing a few profiteers from destroying these globally important ecosystems for personal gain.”
Phil Popham, Managing Director of Land Rover, said: “We are proud to be working closely with our partners Born Free to help tackle this issue; raising awareness levels through the production of this new film and providing vehicles to support the work of wardens out in the field.”