Illegal Hunting And Bushmeat Trade Will Lead To Ecosystem Collapse In Many Parts Of Africa, New Report From Panthera Says

October 15, 2012 in Animals & Insects

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Widespread illegal hunting throughout Africa and a growing bushmeat trade will lead to a ‘conservation crisis’ if there isn’t significantly more effort, focus and resources invested to combat them, according to a new report from Panthera. Illegal hunting is occurring much more frequently and having a much greater effect on animal populations in the savannas of Africa than was previously thought. These findings directly challenge previously held beliefs about the illegal bushmeat trade in Africa and its effects, with new research and analysis from experts in various fields.

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The bushmeat trade has been considered a significant threat to the resources of indigenous peoples and to animal populations in the forests of Central and West Africa for a longtime, but until now there hasn’t been much attention focused on the African savannas. This is partly because there is a common misconception that the illegal hunting there is only on a small-scale, and is just for subsistence.

“Motivated by a growing concern about the impacts of illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade in these savannas, Panthera, the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society organized a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa attended by key wildlife experts to identify the drivers of illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade, and the interventions necessary to mitigate these issues.”

As a result a new report was created, “Illegal Hunting and the Bush-Meat Trade in Savanna Africa: Drivers, Impacts and Solutions to Address the Problem.” The report is the first to provide a truly comprehensive overview of the effects caused by the bushmeat trade and illegal hunting in the savannah.

“Dramatically more effort, focus and resources need to be invested to address the illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade. In the absence of such an effort, one of Africa’s most valuable resources, the continent’s wildlife and comparative advantage, will wane rapidly and disappear from many areas,” says Dr. Peter Lindsey, the lead author and Panthera’s Lion Program Policy Initiative Coordinator.
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The report confirmed that the illegal hunting of bushmeat is quickly becoming one of the most significant threats to ecosystems in several countries. There will be drastic changes if it continues; the extinction of many local populations even in ‘protected’ areas, large reductions in the territory of protected areas, and a complete collapse and extinction of whole ecosystems and populations. And the report noted, that as animal populations begin to dwindle it will become more and more difficult to ‘protect’ the last populations, the pressures on those populations greatly increasing.

“Along with these damning ecological impacts, the report shows that the bushmeat trade imparts serious negative economic and social impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities. According to the report, the bushmeat trade is foreclosing options for developing wildlife-based tourism and other forms of wildlife-based land use in many areas, threatening a primary potential driver for economic growth and the generation of employment for local communities.”

“Furthermore, the report highlights the impact of the bushmeat trade on food security within local communities. While the bushmeat trade currently contributes to household protein needs in many local regions, the practice is not sustainable, due to wasteful and unselective hunting methods, and a lack of regulation of harvest. By contrast, the report explains that regulated legal hunting of wildlife has the potential to sustainably generate massive quantities of meat protein for local households.”

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The report also goes into detail about the specifics of the illegal bushmeat trade. Noting that snaring, which is the most common illegal hunting method, has one of the most severe impacts on wildlife because of it’s uncontrolled nature. Snaring frequently kills endangered animals, but also simply maims many animals that are too large to be killed by it, leaving them severely wounded but still living.

In its conclusion, the report provides a number of potential ‘solutions’ to limit the damage that the illegal bushmeat trade is causing. These include: ensuring the retention of wilderness areas kept far away from human populations, setting up ways for local communities to benefit from wildlife in legal and sustainable ways, improving the protection of wildlife and better enforcing relevant laws, creating alternative sources of work and food, and reducing the availability of the wire that is used to create common snares.

Source: Panthera

Image Credits: Panthera; Leopard via Wikimedia Commons

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