30 October 2012
Two recent news reports again remind us of why issues related to bushmeat remain high on both local and international conservation agendas.
In Uganda, Lily Ajarova who runs the Born Free supported Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is reporting a worrying increasing trend in the consumption of primate meat in the west of the country, something that threatens Uganda’s endangered chimpanzees.
Ongoing unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resulted in the displacement of as many as 16,000 refugees from eastern DRC into western Uganda. Ajarova and others suspect this may be influencing Ugandan cultural practices in favour of the ‘rampant’ consumption of primate meat.
The consumption of primate meat poses a serious threat to Uganda’s chimpanzee population (estimated to be ~5,000 in 2002) which is already confined as a result of habitat destruction to a small number of protected forests, many of which would benefit from improved levels of law enforcement. Poverty is also likely to be driving this new threat, with the region having one of the highest population densities in Africa.
Ugandan Wildlife officials are also concerned that the consumption of primate meat may lead to a possible outbreak of the Ebola virus, a haemorrhagic fever that is often fatal and believed to be transferred to humans through contact with an infected animal. Most recently, the western district of Kibaale was hit by a suspected Ebola epidemic in July, resulting in the death of 17 people.
Ajarova reports that efforts are being made to change people's attitudes towards eating primate meat through education programmes and the setting up of animal-rearing projects among villagers.
In Paris, the scale of bushmeat consumption from Central Africa has been highlighted through the case of a former Central African Prime Minister who was recently stopped at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport carrying almost 12kg of bushmeat (mainly monkey). On the same flight from Bangui, customs officers seized another 588kg of bushmeat from passengers’ luggage, raising questions as to just how much bushmeat is being exported in this way and what percentage comes from threatened or endangered species protected from international trade by laws such as those required by CITES?
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