What measures are African governments taking to prevent bushmeat harvested by poachers from reaching their native populations?

Answer by Rory Young:

The measures being taken vary drastically from country to country and the attitude towards the commercial harvesting of bushmeat is changing rapidly and at different rates, in different countries, both in favour of and against the commercial harvesting of bushmeat.

I will focus on my own direct personal observations this year in two highly affected countries that will serve to well illustrate my point.

The recent and ongoing upheaval in the Central African Republic has resulted in hudreds of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring countries, possibly as many as twenty five percent of the population. These include non-mulsims fleeing ex-Séléka dominated areas and muslims fleeing anti-balaka dominated areas.

The single most affected group are the Fula or "Peuhl" peoples. The mainly Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries of  the ex-Séléka committed horrific atrocities against the non-muslims during their time in power and when they withdrew in the face of masive popular revolt, the anti-balaka chose the largely innocent Fula people to wreak revenge upon. This was simply because the Fula happen to also be muslims.

A muslim family fleeing the violence in Central African Republic (Rory Young, 2014)

The muslims fled South, driving their cattle before them. For centuries the Fula have supllied the other ethnic groups of the region with beef in exchange for manioc, grains and other goods. These other ethnic groups are used to a high level of protein in their diets.

Initially the price of beef went down and the consumption went up as many Fula sold cattle for a pittance to pay for their escape. However, as the Fula moved out, the supply of beef began to slow and then to dwindle, and people people began to look elsewhere. They most especially went after bushmeat, on an industrial scale.

A Ba'aka pygmy hunter. The Ba'aka have traditionally supplied game meat to other ethnic groups in exchange for metal implements and other goods. (Rory Young 2014)

In such a situation the authorities have no choice but to accept an increase in illegal bushmeat. The alternative is malnutrition. However, the change in diet from beef, high in fat and a more varied diet from more widespread trade of different foods to a diet limited mostly to very lean bushmeat and manioc.  There has been a widespread problem of deficiences. Not as bad though as complete starvation or malnutrition that would have been even more widespread than it has been had the government blocked all bushmeat trade. In fact, the knowledge that it eases the pressure on the government to feed its people means that a blind eyes is turned to the trade.

The situation in Guinea, in West Africa, is quite different. The Ebola outbreak here has brought the commercial bushmeat and other environmental problems into sharp focus, not only locally, but internationally as well. Efforts are underway to ensure the chances or futher outbreaks linked to poor hygiene practices and the illegal commercial bushmeat trade are lowered as much as possible.

The main market of Madina in Conakry, Guinea, where bushmeat has in the past been brought and sold. (Rory Young, 2014)

The laws and policies to deter and police the illegal bushmeat trade already exist in most countries. However, the will, resources and skills necessary to enforce those laws have not always been available. That situation is changing, albeit in a still limited manner.

I am in Guinea right now to train and advise the Minsitry of Water and Forests officers in wildlife protection and anti poaching law enforcement. A very important part of the training and operations here is necessarily education. There has simply not been any policing in the past and therefore it would be unreasonable to suddenly start arresting people for what many will not even realise is a crime. It is therefore important to begin by teaching people where they can legally hunt for food, which species, under what conditions and how to do so safely and hygienically.

Commercial bushmeat operations on the other hand will be shut down as quickly as possible.

I often wonder what would happen should one of the innumerable containers of illegal bushmeat, including pangolins, monkeys and other species that are flooding into China were to cause an outbreak or Ebola or some other disease there. Would China and the rest of the world then take the threats of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade seriously? They certainly aren't doing so right now.

During the recent meetings between the American and Chinese leaders at which agreements on on carbon emissions were reached, it seems no mention was made of the devastating involvement by China in the illegal ivory, rhino horn and bushmeat trades. Do they really not see the devastation that has been wrought by Ebola, HIV, Marburg, SARS, Corona virus, Bird-Flu and the very clear link to the unhygienic and illegal trade in wildlife and endangered species? Is it because the deaths mostly occur in Africa? Well, the news is, disease, like terrorism and every other threat facing our planet, respects no borders.

What measures are African governments taking to prevent bushmeat harvested by poachers from reaching their native populations?

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