A growing and lucrative illegal international commercial trade in the meat and other parts of wild mammals ('bushmeat') is causing widespread loss of biodiversity, threatening the livelihoods of communities around the world, and destabilising fragile tropical forest ecosystems.
A Conference in Nairobi examining how to tackle the bushmeat crisis admitted that the international community had thus far failed to stop the bushmeat crisis. The Conference was attended by 55 experts representing 43 governments and United Nations agencies, international and national organisations and indigenous and local community organizations.
A set of recommendations to concerned national governments and stakeholders was adopted by the Conference. These included:
- Implement community wildlife management, and other improved wildlife management approaches, such as game ranching, and hunting tourism
- Increase the raising of 'mini-livestock' (wild animals such as cane rats raised in small farms)
- Support the sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products, such as bee-keeping.
Catherine Bearder MEP, who campaigns at the European Parliament for greater protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, attended the Conference. Afterwards, Mrs Bearder commented:
"In tropical forests we are seeing local subsistence hunting being replaced by commercial hunting and often trade in endangered species."
"This commercialisation of hunting wild animals is causing the 'empty forest syndrome'. The bushmeat crisis is literally emptying the world's forests."
"Current levels of hunting in the forests are simply unsustainable. Before too long the forest's wildlife and ecosystems will be wiped out."
"The bushmeat trade is also damaging our efforts to promote international economic development. National governments lose a huge amount of money if wildlife conservation is managed poorly and biodiversity is depleted irreversibly. It's estimated that in the Central African Republic the government loses US$72m every year because of the unregulated bushmeat trade."
"Different individual approaches have been tried to conserve the forests' wildlife: legal frameworks have been strengthened, the development of alternative sources of food and livelihoods and sustainable use of wildlife has been encouraged. But on their own these aren't enough. We need a coordinated approach to the bushmeat crisis that combines all these approaches and incorporates them into national and regional strategies."
"The international community must come together to guarantee sustainable development for the tropical forest nations. Otherwise, our inaction will lead to an environmental catastrophe and a perilous situation for local communities!"
The bushmeat conference in Nairobi was organised jointly by the Convention on Biological Diversity's Bushmeat Liaison Group and the CITES Central Africa Bushmeat Working Group. It was convened at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and was made possible with funding from the European Commission.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. For more information visit: www.cbd.int.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Thousands of species of wild fauna and flora are used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, cosmetics or fashion. CITES recognizes that commercial trade in these plants and animals may be beneficial both to conservation and to the livelihoods of local people.
However, unregulated wildlife trade can seriously affect species populations, especially those that are already vulnerable as a result of other factors, such as habitat loss. Governments responded to this concern by adopting CITES in 1973 to regulate international wildlife trade and ensure that it remains at a sustainable level. With 175 Parties, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.
CITES provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices. CITES requires each member State to adopt the necessary national legislation and to designate a Management Authority that issues permits to trade. Governments must also designate a Scientific Authority to provide scientific advice on imports and exports. These national authorities are responsible for implementing CITES in close cooperation with Customs, wildlife enforcement, police or similar agencies.
The CBD Liaison Group on Bushmeat
In 2008, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) identified the unsustainable hunting of bushmeat, and its effect on non-target species, as a priority to be addressed by Parties (decision IX/5). In October 2009, the CBD Liaison Group on Bushmeat held its first meeting and developed National and International Recommendations towards the Sustainable Use of Bushmeat (www.cbd.int/ts), based on information contained in CBD Technical Series No. 33, "Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis". The meeting was convened in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as well as the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC). The second meeting of the Liaison Group on Bushmeat was convened jointly with the CITES Central Africa Bushmeat Working Group, from 7-10 June 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. The group consists of more than 50 experts from 20 countries, and more than 20 international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and indigenous and local community representatives.
The CBD Liaison Group on Bushmeat defines bushmeat (or wild meat) hunting as the harvesting of wild animals in tropical and sub-tropical countries for food and for non-food purposes, including for medicinal use.