Wednesday, October 15, 2008

West African chimps and the bushmeat trade

The bushmeat issue continues to strike hard at wildlife populations in Africa. I was tempted to write “strikes again” but at would have been wrong, as it has never stopped. This story from the Wildlife Disease News Digest is about the virtual disappearance of chimps in West Africa, specifically Côte d'Ivoire, and details can be found here.

Here is one example of the consequences of the bushmeat trade. This juvenile chimp was locked in a tiny cage in a hotel forecourt near the town of Limbé on Cameroon's coast. It is likely that the entire family was taken out by hunters, and that they figured out that the value of this one alive was greater than as meat, so they sold it to the hotel.

The disappearance of the chimps is but one layer. The forest itself is vanishing as well, and with it precious resources that include medicinal plants.

In 2001 Ghanaian journalist Vivian Baah wrote a series of articles under the title "Guess What’s Cooking for Dinner?” and “Confessions of a bush meat journalist” in The Evening News of Accra in which she not only stated her love of bush meat, particularly grasscutter (cane rat), but also described in detail how she joined a group of hunters who were finding it increasingly difficult to obtain meat for market, and who were resorting to the burning of forests in order to improve their success rates.
Here is a picture that I took in Cameroon several years ago that shows a cane rat, and some unidentifiable smoked monkeys. As you can see the “storefront” is a broken-off tree branch on which hangs, in pride of place, a francolin.

Ms. Baah speculated that the long-term effects of all these activities and the likely effects on the plants used in traditional medicine and the environment in general could not be anything but decline and disappearance.

Noted wildlife photographer Karl Amman, whose website is a must visit for those concerned with bushmeat issues has documented the bushmeat trade with a series of images that are as striking as they are detailed. Take a look.

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