Bushmeat is a term that has commonly been associated with Africans to signify the meat of wild animals. In Africa, forests are commonly referred to as bushes, hence, animals and meat derived from it is referred to as bushmeat. All wildlife species are classified as bushmeat. Therefore, bushmeat trade refers to the sale of bushmeat for commercial purposes. The trade of wildlife meat is categorized into two: legal and illegal bushmeat. Illegal bushmeat trade has been a crisis for many continents in the world especially Africa. Regardless of the association of bushmeat with the African content, bushmeat trade has been a problem for many countries. Illegal bushmeat trade is characterized by illegal methods of hunting and hunting of endangered species.
Although loss of habitat has been recognized as the major threat to wildlife species, commercial use of game meat has become the most important threat to wild animals in Africa and the rest of the world. As a result of bushmeat trade animals that were previously not in danger are on the verge of extinction. This has already taken place in countries such as Asia and West Africa. Illegal bushmeat trade is a major threat to biodiversity, especially in the forests of Central and West Africa. In rural areas bushmeat serves as the major source of proteins. In addition, it also serves as a source of livelihood for individuals in rural areas. Thus this also makes it a human tragedy.
The loss of wildlife animals jeopardized the way of living of many people in the rural areas. This is so because; most of them rely on bushmeat as their staple food and source of cash, to facilitate the purchase of other commodities. Over the past few years, the bushmeat crisis has increased at an increasing rate in countries affecting almost all species even those that were hardly endangered. This has been propagated by the infrastructure of roads and trucks which serve as a bridge between hunters and forests to consumers and urban centers. The fact that the meat of this endangered wildlife does not necessarily feed the starving members of the rural community but instead feeds the rich is distressing.
Initially hunters focus on large animals and regardless of their reduction in number, they continue hunting these animals. What many individuals don’t realize or are ignorant of is the fact that these animals play some major ecological roles. These animals serve as pollination agents, seed dispersal agents, predators and food for predators. The loss of such species has a vast negative impact on the state of the forest. Bush meat trade has had adverse effects on the economy of different countries. Countries that earn a lot from the wildlife tourism sector have been greatly affected by the loss of wildlife. The consumption of bushmeat is increasingly associated with the spread of deadly diseases like Ebola, HIV/AIDS and Foot and Mouth.
To curb the crisis of bushmeat hunting several measures have been put in place. One of these measures is offering alternative income earning options for individuals, especially those living in rural areas. Projects such as honey, crafts and food production, have not only given individuals alternative livelihoods, but have also provided them with alternative protein and carbohydrates supply. This is important in reducing reliance on bushmeat. Although there exists laws that govern the extent of bushmeat trade, there is need to reinforce these laws. This will ensure there is adequate legal protection and law enforcement. In order to ensure that these laws are enforced, the government in charge should be stable. Political instability serves as a catalyst for bushmeat activities.
Another measure applied to stop or reduce bushmeat trade is the efficient land use planning. The interaction between people and wildlife should be minimized to reduce bushmeat hunting. This can be achieved by setting aside specific locations to inhabit wildlife. These reserves create buffers which assists maintain critical habitats and species. Through the reserves, benefits can be extended to communities from protected areas and hence, create disincentives for bushmeat trade. Such benefits include apportioning portions of park earnings, indulging the community in park management and environmental education. Reducing the availability of snare wires, used by most poachers, is a move towards reducing bushmeat trade. The most important measure is having adequate funding to implement measures meant to suppress bushmeat trade.
Davis. Barbara. Dark side of Debonair. Fenton: Red Barn Press, 2002. Print.
Williamson. Monique. The African Bushmeat trade. Cambridge: Ape Alliance c/o Fauna and Flora International, 1998. Print.
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