Is Bushmeat Sustainable? U.N. Study Says ‘Possible’

16th Oct 2011 Press Releases

Montreal – A United Nations report says sustainable bushmeat harvesting is possible, but only if governments combine new mechanisms for monitoring and law enforcement with new management models, such as community-based management or game-ranching. Finding alternate means of livelihood for residents of forests and other wild lands also will help conserve vanishing species.

If not, the rapid depletion of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals – including great apes in both Africa and Asia – will continue to gain pace as a result of the illegal trade in the meat and other parts of wildlife.

The report, “Livelihood Alternatives for the Unsustainable Use of Bushmeat,” was prepared for the Bushmeat Liaison Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with assistance from the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and financial support from the European Union.

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“I trust that this publication will encourage concrete action to halt the overharvesting of bushmeat and the loss of biodiversity, and thus maintain essential ecosystem services and improve the quality of life for the rural poor in tropical and subtropical countries,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The CBD is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, all the planet’s diverse life forms, that includes 193 government Parties.  The treaty covers the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and also the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources.

The report addresses small-scale food and income alternatives to bushmeat in tropical and sub-tropical countries based on the sustainable use of biodiversity. Although it does not address the conservation issues facing great apes as a result of the bushmeat trade – which has left chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos as endangered – it does cite a case study involving monkey hunting in Cameroon.

The report was informed by the discussions of experts representing 43 governments and UN agencies, international and national organizations, and indigenous and local community organizations, who met in Nairobi, Kenya in June. The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) was a co-sponsor of that event.

Delegates in Nairobi acknowledged that classic approaches and international efforts are not reversing the growing trend of unsustainable bushmeat harvesting.

The report sets forth their recommendations to the international community and to concerned national governments and stakeholders.

Estimates of bushmeat harvest across the Congo Basin in Africa range between one and five million tonnes a year.
In the Brazilian Amazon, subsistence hunters have been estimated to harvest some 23.5 million individual animals annually for food. The yearly market value of wild game meat harvested by rural populations is estimated at US$191 million, second only to timber as a forest product.

In Asia, the true scale and value of the wildlife trade are unknown, as much of the trade is carried out through informal networks, and not documented in government statistics. Many countries in the region including, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, act as sources of wildlife that is traded and consumed.

To curtail bushmeat hunting to a sustainable level, the report recommends community wildlife management and other improved wildlife-management approaches, such as game-ranching and hunting tourism.

“Mini-livestock” can be produced on a sustainable basis for food, animal feed and as a source of income, the report recommends. These wild animals, such as bush rodents, guinea pigs, frogs or giant snails, can be raised on small farms or in backyards.

Other alternative livelihoods to bushmeat hunting, such as beekeeping and other sustainable harvests of non-timber forest products, should be supported, the report says.

The report recognizes the need to clarify and define land-tenure and access rights, improve monitoring of bushmeat harvesting and trade, and enhance enforcement of bushmeat-related laws.