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Cameroon: Bush meat

Title Cameroon: Bush   meat
Director(s) Julien Ansault
Date released (year) 2009
Production company Tony Comiti   Productions
Length 26 mins
Location Cameroon
Keywords/tags Environmental   degradation,  natural resources, deforestation
Link to film
Synopsis Cameroon used to have the strongest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa but the   collapse of its export trade in the 1990s had a devastating effect on the   entire country. The devaluation of Cameroon’s currency provoked an   unprecedented economic crisis, leading to hunger riots in 2008. People turned   to the forest, hunting animals like monkeys or chimpanzees for food. But as   Cameroon’s population has exploded, the forest’s resources are being   exhausted. We follow one poacher who relies on bush meat from animals and   here from an environmentalist who’s spent the last ten years trying to save   chimpanzees.Source:
Links to other resources THINK AFRICA PRESS:At local markets in provincial centres across Central and East Africa,   bushmeat is traded. A vast array of wild meat, including those of protected   species such as elephants, hippos, and chimpanzees, is openly traded.

Some estimate that some six million tonnes of bushmeat are   extracted from Africa’s forests annually and the booming business has   resulted in the sharp declines, and in some instances localised extinction,   of wildlife species. The hunting of wild animals at such alarming levels is   thought to be the leading cause of wildlife depletion in Africa’s tropical forests,   with allegations that it may also be   responsible for the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in people coming in to   close contact with infected animals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo   and Uganda.

The bare necessities

The trade in meat from wild animals has long been recognised as the primary threat to the   biodiversity of tropical forests, but tackling practices of eating endangered   animals is no simple task. To begin with, in remote rural communities,   bushmeat is often linked to issues of food security and economic viability.

In a recent study, Robert Nasi, Director of   the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry comments that:   “For people in the countryside, bushmeat is a crucial part of their diets,   and we cannot simply tell them not to eat it – they will always continue   to…in cities it is somewhat easier to find other sources of protein than in a   village in the middle of the forest.”

Bushmeat consumption in rural Central African households, for example,   can provide 100% of animal protein intake. In   addition, a study in Cameroon identified that up to 33% of village income was derived from   the sale of bushmeat.

However, there are also fears that consumption of bushmeat could be   the cause of major health risks in humans. Recent warnings   from health officials working in the DRC have sought to discourage people   from engaging in activities involving contact with infected animals in light   of the suspected outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country which was first   reported on August 17.

Hungry for hippos

In large cities in the likes of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon,   a growing trade in ‘luxury’ bushmeat is now   being driven by urban elites, amongst whom the exotic nature of bushmeat is   prized as a symbol of privilege.

One factor contributing to this trend has been the growing migration   from the countryside to cities. Newly-settled urban dwellers familiar with   their remote rural backgrounds can provide access to a nuanced index of   available bushmeat. Moreover, interaction between different ethnic groups can   transform beliefs over the ‘taboo’ nature of certain species into recognition   of their tradable market value elsewhere.

Bushmeat trade has been further assisted by the building of roads into   remote rainforest territory. In particular, logging companies, usually   accompanied by large workforces, have created expanding networks of roads   into previously untouched wildlife territories. This can have many unintended   repercussions.

A report from the Wildlife Conservation   Society in New York comments that: “Logging companies frequently regard wild   meat as a free subsidy to feed their workers, with logging roads improving   connectivity between wildlife and markets. Typically, the advent of roads   leads to rapid increases in commercial hunting and subsequent population   crashes of exploited species.”

The circle of life

As hunting becomes increasingly commercialised, wildlife ecosystems   are being placed under intense pressure. Furthermore, as local species are   overexploited and yields decrease, hunters move to other territories,   creating ever-expanding zones of wildlife depletion. This has led to what has   been described as the ‘empty forest syndrome’ whereby key   ecological species responsible for fundamental environmental processes become   locally extinct. Invariably, cascading consequences disrupt key ecological   and evolutionary processes, altering species composition and reducing   biological diversity.

Unsurprisingly, the negative impact   on animal populations has been startling. Primate populations in certain   areas of Equatorial Guinea, for example, have fallen by 90% and disappeared   altogether in other areas. Meanwhile in parts of Cameroon, large mammal   species including elephants and lions have become extinct through hunting in   the last 50 years.

Monkey business

Looking past the ecological and environmental aspects, the   accelerating bushmeat trade intersects with poor civic governance and local   conflict. In fieldwork conducted in the Democratic   Republic of the Congo, for example, it was found that, “in urban bushmeat   markets, protected species comprised more than half of all bushmeat sales   during peacetime and increased fivefold in wartime”.

For this, military officials are most to blame. Tasked with patrolling   protected areas, select senior members of the armed forces are complicit in   the illegal hunting of protected species as a means of both gaining access to   informal economies and privileging clientele systems of governance. The   situation is further aggravated by the fact that during wartime, breakdowns   of authority permit open-access exploitation of local wildlife.

More broadly, policy initiatives have tended to prove ineffective,   being subject to corruption and remaining poorly enforced. For example, a   recent investigation in Mozambique conducted by   the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic found that government officials   and police officers were purchasing illegal bushmeat. The report pointed to   “the weak penal structure providing no deterrent to illegal hunters, and   failure of…the police to enforce fines imposed on illegal hunters”.

For solutions to be found to the bushmeat crisis, it is necessary to   recognise the socio-economic and cultural contexts within which practices not   only exist and succeed, but may currently be central to local diets and   livelihoods. The solution is not one of just enforcement, but of developing   sustainable and mutually beneficial projects that involve local communities   such as campaigns to discourage the consumption of endangered meat amongst   urban dwellers. Reducing illegal hunting requires the rigorous enforcement of   deterrents whilst offering alternative livelihoods for those engaged in the   trade.


Nasi, R.&   Van Vliet,   N. 2011. Empty forests, empty stomachs? Bushmeat and livelihoods in the Congo   and Amazon Basins, International   Forestry Review 13, 3: 355-368. Source:

Bushmeat Crisis   Taskforce, educational resources:



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