On 19 February 1999, 34 experts, representing 28 different organizations and agencies, assembled at the offices of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) in Silver Spring, Maryland to discuss the commercial bushmeat crisis in tropical African countries and its impact on threatened and endangered species, particularly great apes. Participants in this meeting and many others in a growing worldwide network of concerned conservationists, zoo biologists, animal welfare advocates, and medical researchers, have developed the following consensus statement:
While we have our differences in approach, there is strong consensus that the commercial bushmeat trade in tropical African countries is having dire consequences, not only for wildlife, but also for people in Africa and throughout the world. If current unsustainable rates of exploitation continue, the commercial bushmeat trade will decimate, if not eliminate, some endangered species, such as great apes, forest
elephants, and other fauna upon which the health of forest ecosystems depend. Indeed, it may have already caused the extinction of Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey, which formerly existed in the forested zones of Ivory Coast and Ghana.
All of the organizations and individuals endorsing this statement will ensure that a common response to both the conservation and medical challenges is built upon a foundation of respect for the people who live in the areas in question. Solutions to the current bushmeat crisis must be developed in cooperation with the citizens of Africa, with their needs and aspirations in mind. This is especially important given that bushmeat has provided and continues to provide an important food source for the rural inhabitants of bushmeat trade countries.
The African great apes-chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos-are at particular risk. In fact, this illegal trade is destroying free-ranging populations of chimpanzees just when a proposal has been made that their protection in the wild may be important for understanding how to control the spread of HIV and other emerging infectious diseases in humans. Moreover, the killing and dressing of chimpanzee meat in the bush may present a human health risk for those engaged in this trade and is a potential point of entry for new diseases into the global human population.
Therefore, this group of concerned organizations and individuals is united in calling for immediate steps to halt the negative consequences of the illegal commercial trade in endangered and threatened species.
The most pressing of these steps is the need for a wide array of mechanisms for public education in Africa and throughout the world as to the causes, consequences, and appropriate solutions to this crisis.
This public education campaign should begin as soon as possible.
The governments of developed nations and, in particular, multilateral aid agencies, should redouble their commitment to conservation and sustainable development in tropical African countries. They, along with corporate donors and foundations, should provide the human and financial resources necessary to seek workable solutions.
Central and West African governments and conservation organizations have helped to establish a network of protected areas. However, there is presently inadequate political will and financial support to maintain a viable protected area system. Until responsible environmental action is a condition for international development loans and financing, until Central and West African governments take full responsibility for enforcing existing laws and maintaining vigilance against corruption, and until policy makers put the value of protecting wildlife ahead of immediate financial gain, there will be no way to stem the loss of tropical Africa's irreplaceable biological heritage, including our closest living relatives, the great apes.
Logging companies, mining firms, and other extractive industries bear a significant responsibility for the growth of the unregulated commercial bushmeat trade. They must ensure that illegal hunting of threatened and endangered species is prohibited in their concessions and minimize their impact on wildlife by providing alternative sources of food for their employees. They should also do all they can to contribute to equitable, transparent, and lasting solutions.
Over the next several weeks and months, the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force will work with others to better define both the immediate, as well as the medium and long-term components of this important campaign. In the meantime, we will be working with like-minded organizations throughout the world to help respond to this crisis. There is hope for a solution but action must be taken soon.
Organizational Signatories (see RESOURCES page for links to organizations websites):
- African Wildlife Foundation
- American Society of Primatologists
- American Zoo and Aquarium Association
- Bonobo Conservation Initiative
- Bonobo Protection Fund
- Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
- The Biosynergy Institute - The Bushmeat Project
- Conservation International
- Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
- European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
- The Fund for Animals
- The Gorilla Foundation
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- International Gorilla Conservation Programme
- Jane Goodall Institute
- Nederlandse Vereniging voor Hulp ann Dieren
- Rainforest Action Network
- The Humane Society of the United States
- Humane Society International
- Tierhilfswerk Austria
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- World Society for the Protection of Animals
- World Wildlife Fund, U.S.
- Amy Vedder, Ph.D., Director, Africa Program, Wildlife Conservation Society
- Andrew Plumptre, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Africa Program, Wildlife Conservation Society
- Angela Meder, Ph.D., Berggorilla; Regenwald Direkthilfe
- Anthony L. Rose, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Conservation Education, Antioch University Southern California; Executive Director, The Bushmeat Project
- Beatrice Hahn, M.D., Professor of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Benjamin Beck, Ph.D., Associate Director, National Zoological Park; Co-chair, AZA Ape Advisory Group
- Caroline Tutin, Ph.D., Centre International de Recherches Medicales de Franceville (Station d'Etudes des Gorilles et Chimpanzes), Gabon;Famille Thematique Biodiversite (Programme Regional de Gestion del'Information Environnementale)
- Conrad Aveling, Director, ECOFAC
- Dan Wharton, Ph.D., Director, Central Park Zoo; Coordinator, AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan
- David Wilkie, Ph.D., Boston College
- Debra Forthman, Ph.D., Co-chair, AZA Conservation Action Partnership: East Africa
- Elizabeth Bennett, Ph.D., Senior Conservation Zoologist, Wildlife Conservation Society
- Elizabeth Macfie, D.V.M., former Uganda Progect Manager, International Gorilla Conservation Programme
- Francine Madden, M.P.A., M.S.E.S., Consultant, Human-Gorilla Conflict
- Gay Reinartz, Ph.D., Conservation Coordinator, Zoological Society of Milwaukee; Coordinator, AZA Bonobo Species Survival Plan
- Gil Boese, Ph.D., President, Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Inc., and Zoological Society of Milwaukee
- Gustavo Fonseca, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
- H. Dieter Steklis, Ph.D., Professor, Rutgers University; Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
- Heather E. Eves, Doctoral Candidate, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
- Ian Redmond, Chair, Ape Alliance, Wildlife Consultant
- Janette Wallis, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, American Society of Primatologists
- Jef Dupain, Ph.D., Bonobo In Situ Project, Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp
- John Hart, Ph.D., Senior Conservation Zoologist, Wildlife Conservation Society
- John Oates, Ph.D., Professor, Anthropology, Hunter College, City University of New York
- John Robinson, Ph.D., Vice President and Director, International Programs, Wildlife Conservation Society
- John Walsh, International Projects Director, World Society for the Protection of Animals
- Kelly Stewart, Ph.D., Research Associate, University of California at Davis
- Kenneth O Ekechukwu, M.S., Case Western Reserve University
- Kerry Bowman Ph.D., Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Kris Vehrs, Deputy Director, Director of Government Affairs, American Zoo and Aquarium Association
- Lee Nesler, Co-chair, AZA Ape Advisory Group; Coordinator, AZA Gibbon Species Survival Plan
- Lori Perkins, Co-chair, AZA Ape Advisory Group; Coordinator, AZA Orangutan Species Survival Plan
- Martine Peeters, Laboratoire Retrovirus, Institut pour le Recherceh et le Development, France
- Meg Verhees, Nederlandse Vereniging voor Hulp ann Dieren
- Melissa Remis, Ph.D., Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University
- Michael Hutchins, Ph.D., Director, Conservation and Science, American Zoo and Aquarium Association; Adjunct Professor, Graduate Program in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology, University of Maryland
- Michael Woodford, Dr. vet med., FRCVS, Chair, IUCN/Species Survival Commission Veterinary Specialist Group
- Mike Fay, Ph.D., Conservation Ecologist, Wildlife Conservation Society
- Mohamed I. Bakarr, Ph.D., Manager, Science and Technology, Africa Programs, Conservation International
- Norm Rosen, California State University, Fullerton, IUCN/Species Survival Commission, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
- Penny Patterson, Ph.D., Director, The Gorilla Foundation
- Randy Fulk, Ph.D., Curator of Research, North Carolina Zoological Park; Coordinator, AZA Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan
- Randy Kyes, Ph.D., University of Washington, American Society of Primatologists
- Richard Carroll, Ph.D., World Wildlife Fund, U.S.
- Richard Wrangham, Ph.D., Professor, Harvard University
- Russell Mittermeier, Ph.D., President, Conservation International
- Sally Jewell Coxe, Co-founder, Bonobo Conservation Initiative
- Steve Gartlan, Ph.D. Country Representative, World Wildlife Fund Cameroon Program
- Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Ph.D., Professor, Georgia State University; Chair, Bonobo Protection Fund
- Tara Stoinski, Zoo Atlanta and Georgia Institute of Technology
- Terry Maple, Ph.D., Director, Zoo Atlanta; Professor, Department of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology; President, American Zoo and Aquarium Association
- Tom Butynski, Ph.D., Zoo Atlanta's Africa Biodiversity Conservation Program