In The Trouble With Lions I wrote about an unusual case of bushmeat smuggling in the USA. An immigrant woman from Liberia had been prosecuted for smuggling monkey parts. At her pretrial deposition in the Brooklyn federal court in Brooklyn she stated that she ate the bushmeat for religious purposes and
‘because monkey from the wildlife is a very smart animal’.The case has moved along and a report by Frank Donnelly in the Staten Island Advance of Sept 9th states that the woman, named Mamie Manneh (or Jefferson) has pleaded guilty to smuggling illegal monkey parts. This happened after her church minister debunked her claim of bushmeat's religious significance. She will be sentenced on Nov 13th in Brooklyn Federal court.
One of the issues raised by the prosecution was the potential of disease spread from bushmeat. The prosecution veterinary expert mentioned Ebola, measles, tuberculosis, monkeypox and retroviruses similar to HIV but added that she was ‘she was unaware of any documented cases of such diseases being spread through consumer bushmeat.” It maybe that she was referring to such diseases occurring in the USA, but it is important to recognize that several of these diseases are known to have crossed into humans from bushmeat in other countries. The classic is the spread of HIV to humans from chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys on at least seven occasions in the last 100 years. Then there is the more recent finding of a gorilla derived form of HIV occurring in a human, which I recounted in this blog on August 4th under the title Gorillas and AIDS.
In a somewhat related case a Ugandan man was caught red-handed with bushmeat and fruit when his luggage was screened at Newark Liberty International Airport. Reporter Christopher N. Dela Cruz, writing in New Jersey Real-Time News, which is associated with the Star Ledger related that parts of antelope and cane rat were found along with fruit and other illegal commodities.
Lest anyone think that bushmeat smuggling is unusual, local authorities in Newark relate that this was the sixth seizure of bushmeat since October last year, totaling over 41 pounds. Last year, similar seizures weighed in at 88 pounds. Once again, and entirely appropriately, disease transmission to people from bushmeat was raised by federal authorities.
One of the slightly odd things about this report was that a picture accompanying the report showed a uniquely North American species, the pronghorn antelope. It seems possible that the newspaper lacked a picture of the most common antelope species in Uganda, the Uganda kob, (pictured here) which is often a target for poachers in Queen Elizabeth National Park and elsewhere.
In this case the man, whose name was not given, was fined $300 and released.