Faced with “Empty Forests,” Experts Urge Better Regulation of Bushmeat Trade
Nairobi – A growing and lucrative illegal international commercial trade in the meat and other parts of wild mammals, birds and reptiles (‘bushmeat’) is causing widespread loss of biodiversity, imperilling the livelihoods of communities around the world, and destabilising fragile tropical forest ecosystems, say experts at an international conference in Kenya called to discuss the crisis.
There is also a growing domestic trade in bushmeat between rural areas and urban markets, mostly for food. The resulting ’empty forest syndrome’ is increasingly threatening food security, in particular in Central Africa. Stemming the loss of forest fauna will require coordinated action between international actors working on forest and wildlife management, conservation of biodiversity, wildlife trade regulation, law enforcement and health officials, concluded a meeting of experts on the bushmeat trade.
Prof. Toshisada Nishida, a Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) patron whose long-running study of wild chimpanzees helped define the social, cultural, and political structure of great apes, passed away on June 8 following a lengthy illness. He was 70.
Prof. Nishida spent 40 years observing chimpanzee behavior in the Mahale Mountains of southern Tanzania, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. His research yielded important findings regarding tool use, communication, female transfers between groups, coalitionary tactics, and a host of other topics.
Prof. Nishida was the former Head of Evolution Studies at Kyoto University in Japan, and served as president of the International Primatological Society (IPS) from 1996-2000.
“The great apes have lost a true champion with the death of Prof. Nishida,” said Doug Cress, coordinator of GRASP. “His research did much to increase our understanding of primate behavior, but it was his willingness to commit himself to the conservation of great apes and the protection of their habitat that may be his greatest contribution.”
Alarmed by human encroachment into the chimpanzees’ range, Prof. Nishida spearheaded a successful effort to establish the Mahale Mountains as a Tanzanian National Park in 1985, and he set up a non-profit conservation organization devoted to this cause, the Mahale Wildlife Conservation Society.