Bushmeat

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The lizard Varanus bitatawa is a common food for indigenous people in parts of the Philippines. Varanus bitatawa stew being prepared by Agta tribesmen - ZooKeys-266-001-g071.jpg
The lizard Varanus bitatawa is a common food for indigenous people in parts of the Philippines.

Bushmeat, wildmeat, or game meat is meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds hunted for food in tropical forests. [1] Commercial harvesting and trading of wildlife is considered a threat to biodiversity. [2] [3]

Contents

Bushmeat also provides a route for a number of serious tropical diseases to spread to humans from their animal hosts, such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola. [4] [5] [ failed verification ] Bushmeat is used for sustenance in remote areas, while in major towns and cities in bushmeat eating societies it is treated as a delicacy. [6]

Nomenclature

Today the term bushmeat is commonly used for meat of terrestrial wild or feral mammals, killed for sustenance or commercial purposes throughout the humid tropics of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. In West Africa (primarily Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria), Achatina achatina , a giant African snail, is also gathered, sold, eaten, and monitored as part of the bushmeat trade. [7] [8] [9] To reflect the global nature of hunting of wild animals, Resolution 2.64 of the IUCN General Assembly in Amman in October 2000 referred to wild meat rather than bushmeat. A more worldwide term for terrestrial wild animals is game. The term bushmeat crisis is sometimes used to describe unsustainable hunting of often endangered wild mammals in West and Central Africa and the humid tropics, depending on interpretation. African hunting predates recorded history; by the 21st century, it had become an international issue. [10]

Extent

The volume of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa was estimated at 1-5 million tonnes per year at the turn of the century. [11] According to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2014, approximately 5 million tonnes were still being consumed per year in the Congo Basin. [6]

For the people of this region, bushmeat represents a primary source of animal protein in the diet, making it a significant commercial industry. According to a 1994 study in Gabon, annual sales were estimated at US$50 million. The study found that bushmeat accounted for more than half of meat sold in local markets, with primates representing 20% of the total bushmeat. [12]

Dynamics

Endangered species, including lemurs from Madagascar and great apes are killed for bushmeat despite this being illegal. Pictured: Two men with weapons and their prey arranged on display. Hunted Silky Sifakas.jpg
Endangered species, including lemurs from Madagascar and great apes are killed for bushmeat despite this being illegal. Pictured: Two men with weapons and their prey arranged on display.
Bushmeat is often smoked prior to consumption. Bushmeat - Buschfleisch Ghana.JPG
Bushmeat is often smoked prior to consumption.

Logging penetration of forests

Logging concessions operated by companies in African forests have been closely linked to the bushmeat trade. Because they provide roads, trucks and other access to remote forests, they are the primary means for the transportation of hunters and meat between forests and urban centres. Some, including the Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB) in the Republic of Congo, have partnered with governments and international conservation organizations to regulate the bushmeat trade within the concessions where they operate. Numerous solutions are needed; because each country has different circumstances, traditions and laws, no one solution will work in every location. [13]

Overfishing

In the case of Ghana, international illegal over-exploitation of African fishing grounds has increased demand for bushmeat. Both EU-subsidized fleets and local commercial fleets have depleted fish stocks, leaving local people to supplement their diets with animals hunted from nature reserves. Over 30 years of data link sharp declines in both mammal populations and the biomass of 41 wildlife species with a decreased supply of fish. [14]

Public preference

In the case of Liberia in West Africa, bushmeat is eaten widely and is considered a delicacy. [15] A 2004 public opinion survey found that bushmeat ranked second behind fish among residents of the capital Monrovia as a preferred source of protein. [15] Of households where bushmeat was served, 80% of residents said they cooked it "once in a while", while 13% cooked it once a week and 7% cooked bushmeat daily. [15] The survey was conducted during the last civil war, and bushmeat consumption is now believed to be far higher. [15]

There has been extensive literature on the topic of bushmeat, related to field anthropology, and the process of ethnology has been repeated in many different regions to ensure accuracy and precision. [16] [17]

Role in spread of diseases

Armillifer grandis specimens in a Rhinoceros viper sold for human consumption Armillifer grandis.tif
Armillifer grandis specimens in a Rhinoceros viper sold for human consumption

Animal sources may have been the cause for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera, smallpox, measles, influenza, and syphilis acquired by early agrarians. The emergence of HIV-1, AIDS, Ebola Virus, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are attributed to animal sources today. [18] The transmission of highly variable retrovirus chains causes zoonotic diseases. Outbreaks of the Ebola virus in the Congo Basin and in Gabon in the 1990s have been associated with the butchering of apes and consumption of their meat. [19] Bushmeat hunters in Central Africa infected with the human T-lymphotropic virus were closely exposed to wild primates. [20]

Thomas's rope squirrel and red-legged sun squirrel have been identified as reservoirs of the monkeypox virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [21] The bubonic plague bacteria can transfer to humans when handling or eating North American prairie dogs. [22]

In many instances, contracting the diseases mentioned above often occurs due to the cutting of the meat, when animal blood and other fluids may touch the people cutting it, thereby infecting them. Another path of infection is that some of the meat may not be completely cooked. This often occurs due to the type of cooking method: hanging the meat over an open fire. [23] Improper preparation of any infected animal may be fatal. [24]

HIV

Results of research on wild chimpanzees in Cameroon indicate that they are naturally infected with the simian foamy virus and constitute a reservoir of HIV-1, a precursor of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans. [25] There are several distinct strains of HIV, indicating that this cross-species transfer has occurred several times. [26] Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) which is present in modern day chimpanzees, is reportedly derived from older strains of the virus present in the Collared mangabey and Greater spot-nosed monkey. [27] It is likely that HIV was initially transferred to humans after having come into contact with infected bushmeat. [27] [28]

Ebola

The Ebola virus, for which the primary host is suspected to be fruit bats, has been linked to bushmeat. Between the first recorded outbreak in 1976 and the largest in 2014, the virus has transferred from animals to humans only 30 times, despite large numbers of bats being killed and sold each year. Bats drop partially eaten fruits and pulp, then land mammals such as gorillas and duikers feed on these fallen fruits. This chain of events forms a possible indirect means of transmission from the natural host to animal populations. [29]

Although primates and other species may be intermediates, evidence suggests people primarily contract the virus from bats. Since most people buy smoked bushmeat, hunters and people preparing the food have the highest risk of infection. Hunters usually shoot, net, scavenge or catapult their prey, and butcher the bats without gloves, getting bites or scratches and coming in contact with their blood. [30] [6]

In 2014, the suspected index case for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a two-year-old child in Guéckédou in south-eastern Guinea, who was the child of a family that hunted two species of fruit bat, [6] Hypsignathus monstrosus and Epomops franqueti . [31] Some researchers suggested the case was caused by zoonotic transmission through the child playing with an insectivorous bat from a colony of Angolan free-tailed bats near the village. [32] [33]

Despite health organisations warning about risks of bushmeat, surveys pre-dating the 2014 outbreak indicate that people who eat bushmeat are usually unaware of the risks and view it as healthy food. Because of bushmeat's role as a protein source in Western Africa, it is traditionally associated with good nutrition, and efforts to outlaw the sale and consumption of bushmeat have been impossible to enforce and have met with suspicion from rural communities. [34] In one study in Ghana, none of the bushmeat hunters knew about Ghana's hunting laws, suggesting that bans may not be enforceable. [30] The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that between 30 and 80 percent of protein intake in rural households in Central Africa comes from wild meat. [35] However, as human populations grow, the interactions between humans and wildlife will increase, making possible zoonotic transmission of diseases from animal hosts more likely. [6]

One major Nigerian newspaper published a report about the widespread view that eating dog meat was a healthy alternative to bush meat. [36] Dog meat was implicated in a June 2015 Liberian outbreak of Ebola, where three villagers who had tested positive for the disease had shared a meal of dog meat. [37]

One study conducted in Liberia during the recent Ebola crisis showed that socio-economic conditions impacted bushmeat consumption. During the crisis, there was a decrease in bushmeat consumption and daily meal frequency. In addition, preferences for bushmeat species stayed the same. [38]

Parasites

Different game species pose a threat of different and diverse parasite infections to humans. Taking the Congo Basin as an example, over-exploitation already depleted to populations of large mammals and, therefore, hunting on reptiles is increasing. A large proportion of the Bitis spp. vipers sold at local bushmeat markets are infected by Armillifer grandis representing a zoonotic threat to public health. [39]

Impact upon animal species

Pygmy hippos are among the species illegally hunted for food in Liberia. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild. Choeropsis.jpg
Pygmy hippos are among the species illegally hunted for food in Liberia. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild.

The consumption of bushmeat threatens a wide range of species, including species that are endangered and threatened with extinction. For example, a range of endangered species are hunted for bushmeat in Liberia. [40]

Species hunted for food in Liberia include elephants, pygmy hippopotamus, chimpanzees, duikers, and other monkeys. [40] Forest rangers in Liberia say that bushmeat poachers will kill any forest animal they encounter. [40]

Effect on great apes

A gorilla in the DR Congo, 2008. The use of buckshot has helped bushmeat hunters target gorillas by allowing them to more easily kill the dominant male silverback. Gorilla gorilla09.jpg
A gorilla in the DR Congo, 2008. The use of buckshot has helped bushmeat hunters target gorillas by allowing them to more easily kill the dominant male silverback.

The great apes of Central and West Africa—gorillas and chimpanzees—are nearly ubiquitously sold as bushmeat throughout the region, and a study from 1995 suggests that the off-take is unsustainable. [12] With the exception of a 1995 report from Cameroon, where gorillas were considered a target species for hunters, Central and West African hunters do not appear to target them. [42] Historically, poachers have favored hunting chimpanzees because they flee when one is shot. Gorillas, however, only became easy targets when buckshot ammunition became available, allowing the hunters to more easily kill the dominant male silverback whose role it is to defend his troop. [12]

Generally, great apes constitute a minor portion of the bushmeat trade. Although a 1996 study indicated that approximately 1.94% of animal carcasses sold and consumed in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo belonged to great apes, it accounted for 2.23% of the biomass of the meat sold, which is significant for ape populations relative to their ecosystem. Furthermore, these numbers may not have accurately represented the extent of the problem for the following reasons: [42]

  1. Vendors may not have admitted the sale of great ape meat because it is illegal;
  2. The carcasses are large, and may therefore have been consumed locally rather than been transported to large markets;
  3. Great ape hunting usually peaks when new forest areas are made accessible as they are unwary when unfamiliar with humans, but later hunting declines;
  4. It is nearly impossible to visually distinguish the meat source when it has been smoked;
  5. Secondary effects, such as unintended deaths from traps, are not represented in market data.

During the time interval between a study from 1981 to 1983 and another study between 1998–2002 in Gabon, ape population density fell 56%, despite the country retaining nearly 80% of its original forest cover. [43] This decline was primarily associated with the transformation of the bushmeat trade from subsistence level to unregulated, commercial hunting, facilitated by transportation infrastructure intended for logging purposes. [12] [43] Unsustainable hunting practices along with habitat loss makes the extinction of these endangered primates more likely. [44]

See also

Other wildlife consumption

Related Research Articles

Zoonosis disease that can be transmitted from one species to another

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Poaching illegal taking of wild fish and so on

Poaching has been defined as the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights. Poaching was performed by impoverished peasants for subsistence purposes and a supplement for meager diets. It was set against the hunting privileges of nobility and territorial rulers.

Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVs) is a species of retrovirus that cause persistent infections in at least 45 species of African non-human primates. Based on analysis of strains found in four species of monkeys from Bioko Island, which was isolated from the mainland by rising sea levels about 11,000 years ago, it has been concluded that SIV has been present in monkeys and apes for at least 32,000 years, and probably much longer.

<i>Ebolavirus</i> genus of viruses

The genus Ebolavirus is a virological taxon included in the family Filoviridae, order Mononegavirales. The members of this genus are called ebolaviruses. The six known virus species are named for the region where each was originally identified: Bundibugyo ebolavirus, Reston ebolavirus, Sudan ebolavirus, Taï Forest ebolavirus, Zaire ebolavirus, and Bombali ebolavirus. The latter is the most recent species to be named and was isolated from Angolan free-tailed bats in Sierra Leone.

Natural reservoir long-term host of the pathogen of an infectious disease

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Western lowland gorilla subspecies of mammal

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History of HIV/AIDS

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EcoHealth Alliance is a non-governmental organization which employs a 'One Health' approach to protecting the health of people, animals, and the environment from emerging infectious diseases. The nonprofit is a global organization focused on scientific research that aims to prevent pandemics and promote conservation in hotspot regions worldwide.

Wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo includes its flora and fauna, comprising a large biodiversity in rainforests, seasonally flooded forests and grasslands. Wildlife is threatened by overhunting for bushmeat.

Central chimpanzee subspecies of mammal

The central chimpanzee or tschego is a subspecies of the common chimpanzee. It occurs mainly in Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo, but also, to a lesser extent, in other regions.

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Ebola virus disease Viral hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by ebolaviruses

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Bat as food bat eaten as food

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Western African Ebola virus epidemic The 2013–2016 outbreak which caused widespread loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in the region

The Western African Ebola virus epidemic (2013–2016) was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in history—causing major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in the region, mainly in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The first cases were recorded in Guinea in December 2013; later, the disease spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, with minor outbreaks occurring elsewhere. It caused significant mortality, with the case fatality rate reported which was initially considerable, while the rate among hospitalized patients was 57–59%, the final numbers 28,616 people, including 11,310 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 40%. Small outbreaks occurred in Nigeria and Mali, and isolated cases were recorded in Senegal, the United Kingdom and Italy. In addition, imported cases led to secondary infection of medical workers in the United States and Spain but did not spread further. The number of cases peaked in October 2014 and then began to decline gradually, following the commitment of substantial international resources. As of 8 May 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) and respective governments reported a total of 28,646 suspected cases and 11,323 deaths (39.5%), though the WHO believes that this substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak.

Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone

An Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone occurred in 2014, along with the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia. On March 18, 2014 Guinean health officials announce the outbreak of a mysterious hemorrhagic fever "which strikes like lightning." It was identified as Ebola virus disease and spread to Sierra Leone by May 2014. The disease is thought to have originated when a child in a bat-hunting family contracted the disease in Guinea in December 2013. Consumption of African bushmeat, including rats, bats, and monkeys, is commonplace in Sierra Leone and West Africa in general.

Ebola vaccine

Ebola vaccine candidates against Ebola have been developed in the decade prior to 2014, but none had been approved for clinical use in humans. One, rVSV-ZEBOV, had been used extensively in 2018-19 under a compassionate use protocol, and in September 2019, the FDA accepted a Biologics License Application and granted priority review for the vaccine. Several promising vaccine candidates have been shown to protect nonhuman primates against lethal infection.

Cultural effects of the Ebola crisis

The Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has had a large effect on the culture of most of the West African countries. In most instances, the effect is a rather negative one as it has disrupted many Africans’ traditional norms and practices. For instance, many West African communities rely on traditional healers and witch doctors, who use herbal remedies, massage, chant, and witchcraft to cure just about any ailment. Therefore, it is difficult for West Africans to adapt to foreign medical practices. Specifically, West African resistance to Western medicine is prominent in the region, which calls for severe distrust of Western and modern medical personnel and practices.(see Ebola conspiracies below.)

Monkey meat flesh and other edible parts derived from monkeys

Monkey meat is the flesh and other edible parts derived from monkeys, a kind of bushmeat. Human consumption of monkey meat has been historically recorded in numerous parts of the world, including multiple Asian and African nations. Monkey meat consumption has been reported in parts of Europe and the Americas as well.

African vulture trade

The African vulture trade involves the poaching, trafficking, and illegal sale of vultures and vulture parts for bushmeat and for belief use, like traditional medicines, in Sub-Saharan Africa. This illegal trade of vultures and vulture parts is contributing to a population crisis on the continent. In 2017, the IUCN Red List categorized seven of Africa's 11 vulture species as globally endangered or critically endangered. Recent research suggests that 90% of vulture species declines in Africa may be due to a combination of poisoning and illegal wildlife trade for medicinal use and/or bushmeat. All trade of African vultures is illegal, as these birds are protected by international laws.

Wildlife trafficking and emerging zoonotic diseases

Wildlife trafficking practices have resulted in the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

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