Bush meat crisis threatens decimation of Africa's apes
By Henry Wasswa Jun 29, 2006, 14:43 GMT
Entebbe - Bush meat trade is threatening a possible depletion Africa's Great Apes, the world's leading chimpanzee and gorilla conservationist, Jane Goodall, warned Thursday.
She said that although governments on the continent have agreed to the protection of the primates, corruption and commercial interests involving logging companies are making conservation efforts futile.
Extensive destruction of the forests by international logging firms in Central Africa has exposed the primates, mainly chimpanzees, to bush meat hunters who are killing off the parent chimps, leaving babies orphaned and selling off the meat to local and illegal international markets, Goodall said.
'The bush meat crisis is very very serious. Animals are being eaten to extinction,' she told reporters at the sidelines of an international primate conference in Uganda.
'My concern is with the Great Apes of the Congo basin. Logging firms go deep into the forests which were originally inaccessible to hunters. People used to hunt for bush meat for centuries on a family basis and mostly for food and for cultural rites like magic,' Goodall said.
She said that the most affected states in the bush meat crisis are the DR Congo, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea and that the bush meat trade brings in one billion dollars every year to the Central African Republic.
'The local hunting for bush meat has now changed to commercial hunting and everything that can be eaten is shot and smoked. The most affected primates are chimps,' Goodall said.
'Some meat is eaten by local people and the rest sold in towns and the exported mainly to the US and Europe. This meat is eaten by African experts there who come from primate-meat eating countries,' she said.
Goodall said that due to the destruction of the forests and the current bush meat crisis, the Equatorial and Tropical forested regions of Africa which were teeming with up to 2 million chimpanzees over 100 years ago, are today home to only about 200,000 chimps.
Goodall is attending the 21st congress of the International Primatological Society that began Monday at the lake-side airport town of Entebbe.
More than 700 scientists and ecologists are presenting research papers on a range of topics including the bush meat crisis and diseases affecting primate communities around the world.
'The problem has been the destruction of primate habitats as the human population grew and the setting up of snares to catch them. Now the bush meat trade has taken over as the greatest threat to the primates' survival. There has been a change from live animal trade to bush meat,' Goodall said.
'The mother is shot and the baby orphans sold to anybody who can buy. Many chimps are killed for meat and the baby orphans are roaming the forests,' she added.
Goodall's Great Apes Survival Project GASP is influencing African government's through the UN Environment Program UNEP to pay more attention to the preservation of the primates.
Her TACARE programmes in states like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo are targeting communities around the ape-protected areas, carrying out conservation programmes, teaching people to plant fast-growing trees around the parks and prividing micro-credit facilities to women groups.
'We work very hard to sensitise the communities. Governments in the region agree that its important to protect the apes in the forests but there are economic factors undermining this,' Goodall warned.
'Logging firms pay a lot of money to cut down the forests and there is corruption. Bush meat trade brings in one billion dollars to the Central African Republic every year and this meat is exported illegally to Europe and the US,' Goodall said.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur