Bush Meat Crisis Africa

To address the bush meat crisis via community involvement in Central and East Africa


Rural communities rely heavily on hunting for food for their income. Bush meat is consumed by subsistence hunters and also sold in markets in Central and East Africa. Though deforestation and habitat loss are often cited as the primary causes of local wildlife extinction, hunting for both local consumption and large commercial markets has become the most immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Central and East Africa and is fast spreading across Africa. The magnitude of the present-day commercial bush meat trade is driven by the lucrative local and international markets of Asia, Europe and America. This demand involves the poor hunters, moderately rich middle men and very rich final consumers. It should be noted that the majority of local community members do not benefit from the commercial trade but bear the brunt of its consequences. This commercial market threatens the survival of many species, including several unique species in the dense forested regions of Africa.


Though many of the communities are still using rudimentary hunting methods, covertly the population explosion being witnessed among the communities neighbouring protected areas cannot match the replenishment of dwindling wildlife resources. The situation is exacerbated by unprecedented degradation of ecosystems like wetlands, forests and savannahs, for expansion to acquire more arable land, settlement and grazing among others. Wildlife habitats have become islands in the sea of human beings. Though deforestation is an obvious problem to wildlife as it is the destruction of their habitats, hunting constitutes a comparable threat to the ecosystem itself.


Migratory corridors no longer exist between major wildlife habitats and they have since been replaced with dotted community subsistence farms. This has resulted in another challenge, that being of constant crop raids by wild animals and hence creating human–animal conflicts. This problem is so rampant in communities neighbouring national parks and wildlife reserves that the communities hate park rangers. Communities now hunt down wildlife with all their might as they are seen to be depriving the communities of their subsistence. There is a need to show communities how to implement alternative interventions. Initial results seem to indicate that these alternative methods are starting to be accepted and have a positive effect.


Hunting of wildlife in East Africa is illegal in most protected areas, apart from the few wildlife reserves where sport hunting is permissible by registered companies and communities. Despite all this, illegal hunting in major national parks is going on unabated. Sophisticated weapons like automatic rifles, wire snares and man traps are indiscriminate because they do not give a fair chance of survival to animals. The hunter does not care whether it is breeding season or not. This does not allow for natural replenishment of wildlife populations. In most cases, women are involved in the bush meat trade while poaching is reserved for men. The subsistence way of hunting, which was sustainable and promoting livelihood enhancement in the past, has currently been severely compromised.


Central and East African countries through their lead agencies on wildlife and environment conservation, in partnership with local communities and non-governmental organisations, are engaged in collaborative approaches that discourage the consumption and hunting of bush meat through alternative livelihoods and awareness creation. Environmental clubs in schools have been strengthened with the aim of imparting knowledge and skills among the young people for positive action and stewardship towards wildlife conservation and environmental management. Residential camps and excursion trips for children are an effective approach to inspire children from communities neighbouring protected areas. After training, these children return home and influence others positively as role models on environmental issues. Community members and teachers are always sensitised through workshops on the benefits, challenges and solutions of wildlife management. It should also be noted that priority is given to local community members for employment as wildlife rangers, guides or scouts. Some countries have established a community wildlife surveillance network in the area by educating hunters on the best procedures for reporting animal carcasses found in the forest. The goal of this community-based surveillance system is to allow for continued, sustainable monitoring of potential disease outbreaks and illegal hunting.


Through the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA) and its Central African, West to East Coast chapter based at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), outreach programmes have been implemented. This involves teams from UWEC visiting the most remote villages to advise them on the perils of bush meat trade and assist them with establishing alternative food sources. In addition to this, curriculum-based literature and programmes have been developed for schools and teachers. Embracing all this is the enormous conservation drive working with rangers and reserve managers in re-establishing migratory corridors through working with farmers and communities.


The next phase of Bush Meat Crisis Africa is to raise the level of participation by creating global awareness of the destruction of this trade to ecosystems and the real-life potential of the spread of fatal diseases emanating from bush meat added to assisting local communities in developing alternative food sources.


WAZA Conservation Project 16002 is implemented by the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA), with support provided by Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Lory Park and Butterfly World Tropical Park. Other stakeholders involved in the project include SRE Developments and Bester Birds & Animals Zoo Park.


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