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GROWING ILLEGAL COMMERCE IN AFRICAN BUSHMEAT DESTROYS GREAT APES AND THREATENS HUMANITY
Dr. Anthony L. Rose, Ph.D.
Institute for Conservation Education and Development
Antioch University Southern California.African Primates Are At Great Risk. Across the forest region of west and central Africa a conflux of factors are making commercial hunting a leading threat to the survival of many primates, including the great apes. Primate hunting is reported in 27 of the 44 primate study and conservation projects described in IUCN's recent status survey on African primates (Oates, 1996b). In 12 of these territories, human predation is said to be a severe threat to species survival. The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (IUCN, 1996) shows a large rise in threat status for mammal species, with primates being the major order most threatened by extinction. The situation is worse in areas where most remaining apes and monkeys live, outside parks and reserves. In Africa hundreds of unique and never studied primate populations are being annihilated, and thousands will follow if current trends continue (Oates, 1996a; Rose, 1996e; Ape Alliance, 1998; Ammann, pers. comm.).
ABSTRACT: African apes are at great risk: the timber industry is a key factor. Commercial hunting of apes in logging concessions threatens their extinction. Resourcism is the root cause: anarchy is a symptom and catalyst. Conservation players and strategies must expand to found a multidisciplinary field of conservation development which will synergize the relationship between humanity and nature. Human health will become a prime mover and put apes and bushmeat on the global agenda. This complex crisis requires complex multilevel treatment. Three solution clusters are recommended: 1-Fundamental: Global Alliance for Bushmeat Education and Control; 2-Urgent: Multidisciplinary Crisis Intervention Field Projects; 3-Sustaining: Long-Term Conservation Development Programs.
© 1998, Anthony L. Rose, Hermosa Beach, California USA / Anthony_Rose@antiochla.edu
The risk level for different species and populations varies with their numbers, reproductive vigor, and distribution in range. Past declines have been correlated most with human population growth and habitat destruction. Bushmeat hunting has long been recognized as a factor. Eltringham (1984) wrote that "Gorillas and chimps costing several thousand dollars each are captured for zoos and medical research centers, but the quantity killed for food dwarfs the number taken alive." While capture of live apes for zoos and research has mostly stopped, a growing body of evidence now shows that shifts in human social and economic practices in the forests of Africa have greatly increased the killing of primates for meat. Oates (1996a) concludes "... while the total removal of natural habitat is clearly a major threat to the survival of many African forest primates, an analysis of survey data suggests that human predation tends to have a greater negative impact on primate populations than does selective logging or low-intensity bush-fallow agriculture."
Timber Industry Is Key Factor. Ammann's (1993, 1996c, 1998b) nine year investigation of hunting pressures in and outside the IUCN (1996) surveyed areas strongly indicates that unprotected and unstudied apes -- especially those within 30 km of the expanding network of logging roads and towns -- are being devastated by a burgeoning commercial bushmeat trade. The main catalyst of this devastation is growth of the timber industry (Ammann & Pearce, 1995; Ammann, 1996b). Timber prices and profits are tied to provision of commercial bushmeat to migrant workers. Every logging town has its modern hunting camp, supplied with foreign made guns and ammunition, and staffed by men and women who come from distant towns and cities, hoping to make a living in the forests. With indigenous forest dwellers hired as guides and hand servants, immigrant hunters comb the forests, shooting and trapping.
Anything edible is fair game in a market that starts with the wood cutters, truck drivers and camp families who scrape together their meager wages for a porcupine stew (Rose, 1998a). From this captive market base the bushmeat trade stretches all the way to fine restaurants and private feasts in national capitals where more rare and expensive fare is available. Little is done to teach or enforce wildlife laws. Gorilla, chimpanzee, and elephant are among the animals that are slaughtered in timber concessions and sold for their meat at prices ranging from two to six times the cost of beef or pork. This scenario is so pervasive, and so driven by neo-colonial social values and economics, that it is the rule wherever roads are built into new forest areas.
Most timber executives admit there is a problem and say they are powerless to stop it (Incha, 1996; Splaney, 1998). Logging managers have been reluctant to let outsiders into their concessions, fearing that problems will be uncovered and business disrupted with no solutions provided. A timber CEO recently invited outside investigators to help police ape hunting in a million acre concession in DRCongo after seeing photos of seven bonobos smoked and sold for bushmeat (Ammann, 1998a). Loggers in southeast Cameroon are responding to new documentation of butchered gorillas and smoked chimpanzees, meeting with conservationists to discuss possible action (Ammann, pers. comm.). The timber industry's reliance on bushmeat to feed loggers and their inability to educate workers and govern their concessions leads to indiscriminate hunting that not only fosters the breaking of laws, but also the breaking of customs. People whose colonial and tribal cultures once enforced taboos against eating primates are beginning to try it (Ammann, 1996c). As eating apes becomes an accepted practice, education and law enforcement becomes more difficult.
Hunting Apes Threatens Their Extinction. Even in areas with no logging intrusion, demand for chimpanzee and gorilla meat can be substantial. Kano and Asato (1994) compared ape density and hunting pressure from 29 Aka and Bantu villages along the Motaba River area of northeastern Congo Republic and projected a bleak future for the apes. Over 80% of their 173 Aka informants were willing to eat gorilla or chimpanzee meat. Among 120 Bantu informants, 70% were willing to eat gorilla meat and 57% would eat chimpanzee. Because more Aka were involved in ape hunting, 40% reported having eaten gorilla or chimpanzee meat in the previous year, while 27% of Bantu had eaten apes in the same period. Aka informants estimate 34 to 60 successful "subsistence" hunters killed 49 gorillas and 103 chimpanzees in 1992. Bantu claimed seven to nine hunters shot 13 gorillas and 28 chimpanzees that year. Kano and Asato measured ape population density and assert that the survival of both ape populations is at serious risk in this territory, as it is farther east for the bonobo "unless a strong system can be established which combines effective protection with the provision of attractive substitutes for ape meat to the local people."
The finding that village hunting of apes in a large habitat area is unsustainable when guns are used makes us all the more concerned about the popular and growing commercial bushmeat trade supported by timber industry infrastructure that is feeding and fostering consumer preferences in towns and cities. If the taste for bushmeat continues to spread across equatorial Africa at its current pace, all African apes and most other non-human primates may soon be threatened by extinction.
South of the Motaba River, Hennessey (1995) studied bushmeat commerce around the Congolese city of Ouesso. He reports that 64% of the bushmeat in Ouesso comes "from an 80 km road traveling southwest to a village called Liouesso." There a hunter who specializes in apes was responsible for most of the 1.6 gorilla carcasses sold each week in the Ouesso marketplace. That is over 80 gorillas per year in one city. Hennessey also estimates that 50 forest elephants were killed annually for meat and ivory in this same study, but only 19 chimpanzees.
Similar Aka-Bantu hunting and long-distance commercial bushmeat trade is described by Wilke et al. (1992) in the Sangha region west of Ouesso. There, many hunters preferred trading their meat at Ouesso in order to get a higher price than at logging concessions, confirming the report of Stromayer & Ekobo (1991) that Ouesso and Brazzaville are the ultimate sources of demand. Wilke et al. (1992) describe monkey meat for sale, but say nothing about apes. They do recommend that wildlife conservation officers and biologists monitor and protect duiker, primates, and elephants to regulate "the harvest of forest protein."
Ammann & Pearce (1995) reported intense hunting of apes for bushmeat in south-eastern Cameroon, across the border west of Wilke's study site. "The hunters in the Kika, Moloundou and Mabale triangle in Cameroon estimate that around 25 guns are active on any given day and that successful gorilla hunts take place on about 10% of outings. This would result in an estimated kill of up to 800 gorillas a year." These same hunters say they bring out chimpanzee too, half as many as gorillas in this location -- up to 400 per year. While some ape meat is sold to logging workers in these forests, most is shipped on logging lorries to the provincial capital of Bertoua and beyond to Yaounde and Douala where more profit can be made. Ammann (1998a) confirmed Hennessey's (1995) findings that a small portion of Cameroon bushmeat crosses the border for sale in Ouesso.
Illegal bushmeat including gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo has been photographed in villages near Lope, Ndoki, and Dja Reserves, and in city markets at Yaounde, Bangui, Kinshasa, Pt. Noire, and Libreville (Ammann: 1996a, 1997, 1998a; McRae & Ammann, 1997). Traders interviewed in those areas affirm that fresh meat comes from nearby forests, while smoked meat can be transported long distances. It is well known that the million people who inhabit the forested territory of Gabon have a strong palate for bushmeat. Steel (1994) found half the meat sold in Gabon city markets is bushmeat: an estimated $50 million unpoliced trade. Twenty percent of the bushmeat is primates.
Extrapolating from the above studies, I estimate that bushmeat trade across equatorial Africa is more than a billion dollar business. As logging expands, the numbers of monkeys and apes killed for the cooking pot increases. I have no doubt that more African apes are shot and butchered for meat in the lowland forests every year than live captive in all the world's zoos and sanctuaries. Furthermore, in the wake of thousands of individual apes slaughtered, hundreds of ape families and communities are decimated, dissolved, or dispersed to struggle and die.
Discussion with scores of field researchers and conservationists (Rose, 1996b,c,d; Rose & Ammann, 1996) produced consensus that "if the present trend in forest exploitation continues without a radical shift in our approach to conservation, most edible wildlife in the equatorial forests of Africa will be butchered before the viable habitat is torn down" (Rose, 1996e). This conclusion had already been reached by Oates (1996a) and has been confirmed most recently by a coalition of the 44 wildlife protection and conservation NGOs in the UK Ape Alliance (Redmond, 1998). Jane Goodall (1998) declared that "unless we work together to change attitudes at all levels -- from world leaders to the consumers of illegal bushmeat -- there will be no viable populations of great apes in the wild within 50 years." Whole populations of apes are disappearing by the year.
Resourcism Is Root Cause: Anarchy Is Symptom and Catalyst. Bushmeat commerce grows conjointly with the progress of extractive industry that has overlaid the economic and moral values of international resourcism on the varied cultures of the region. People who manifested spiritual reverence and care for the natural world have been manipulated into treating wildlife as a material resource. When we see an animal as little more than meat, we will hunt, butcher and eat it with impunity (Cartmill, 1993). Russ Mittermeier (1987) warned of the pervasive global threat of primate hunting over a decade ago. The human values and attitudes that support bushmeat commerce come in large part from mal-adaptation of old-style colonial world-views.
In much of central Africa "a general pattern of apathy, fatalism, and materialism towards nature and wildlife" prevails (Kellert, 1996). Most contemporary Africans have lost their traditional "theistic" reverence for wildlife and many have taken on the harshest utilitarian view (Mordi, 1991). With the advent and spread of cash economy, colonial religion, and urbanized central government, "tribal values of conserving and protecting nonhuman life are rendered spiritually inoperable, while new ecological and ethical foundations for sustaining nature have not emerged" (Kellert, 1996).
Short term economic incentives are prepotent in this milieu. This holds for people struggling to survive and for wealthy Africans as well. Conservation financiers and resource profiteers vie for economic and political control of wildlife habitat. This competition favors those who hire and pay local people to support unsustainable and destructive exploitive practices. One timber company executive described it rhetorically: "if you found a 100 franc note lying on the ground, would you pick it up?" (Incha, 1996). Bushmeat is like found money.
Most worrisome is the general agreement among conservationists that the destructive outcomes of bushmeat commerce have reached crisis proportions (Rose, 1996b; Redmond, 1998). What makes this a crisis is not only the numbers, but the way they develop. Juste et al. (1995) crystallize the essence of the process: "With the advent of modern firearms and improved communications and transport, subsistence hunting has given way to anarchic exploitation of wildlife to supply the rapidly growing cities with game." The key word here is anarchic. "Absent effective political authority, having no cohesive principle, common standard or purpose" (Heritage Dictionary, 1995), the bushmeat trade has exploded into a rush for personal profit akin to the gold rush that transformed the western portion of the United States in the 19th century. Horta (1992) wrote that "... almost all the companies in the forestry sector are 'outside the law'. Despite good legislation, there is no effective overseeing of actual operations." It is imperative that international political and financial pressures and incentives be brought to bear on these uncontrolled business activities and the resultant social anarchy. At the same time work must begin in earnest to expand African people's values beyond the imported view of wildlife and wilderness as an exploitable natural resource.
Conservation Players and Strategies Must Expand. African wildlife and rainforest will be saved through changes in economic practice, moral purpose, social dynamics, and political will. To effect these changes the conservation community must expand methods and competence beyond the traditional field of conservation biology. It is time to recognize that those who measure ecological destruction are rarely able to do much about it. Conservation is primarily a human affair. It is not just about animals and ecosystems. It is about humans and social institutions that are putting all of life at great risk. The idea of protecting enclaves of apes without helping human society is not feasible. Neither is it moral, nor necessary. What is needed is to expand players and strategies into a new field of conservation development that will study, assess, and promote continual synergistic relationships among ecological and social forces, processes, and stakeholders -- to assure that both humanity and nature will thrive.
I have argued for the creation of multi-faceted coalitions that integrate the broadest possible amalgam of players and strategies (Rose, 1996a) and have drafted program designs for a matrix of interlinked, multidisciplinary, multi-level community based eco-social projects to control and eliminate bushmeat commerce and develop sustainable alternatives. To implement such designs requires diverse professionals with the courage and the will to collaborate in places where human exploitation, migration, and conflagration are destroying people, wildlife and environment.
A viable approach to conservation in contemporary equatorial Africa must involve experts in community and organization development, cross-cultural relations, agribusiness, eco-social conflict resolution, peacemaking, small business finance, public health and disease control, international management, justice systems, law enforcement, and more. Biological expertise also must expand beyond zoological specialists in charismatic mega-fauna and include forest, farm, and urban ecologists as well as human family planners and health service developers. Conservation groups have resisted change, perhaps because their leaders and financial supporters are inspired mainly by the salvation of wildlife, not people. In equatorial Africa the expertise required to produce effective eco-social synergy is diverse and scattered at best. Globally there are professionals competent in all the fields mentioned above, from community builders to law enforcers. But to recruit and organize them to work together is a Herculean effort -- the critical path in the conservation development movement.
Conservation Must Serve and Synergize Humanity and Nature. Rapid and lasting success will come to innovative conservation educators and developers who work directly with the full range of people involved in expanding human commerce -- leaders and rulers, exploiters and consumers, producers and suppliers, hunters and traders. These proactive partnerships will invent socially and ecologically sound programmes to satisfy the human needs that now drive the illegal and unsustainable commercial extraction and consumption of fauna and flora in Africa. Innovators must help human communities in forest, village, town, and city to improve their quality of life by returning to a synergistic relationship within local and regional ecosystems.
The task of living in wild places to track apes and other endangered animals will take on huge added responsibility as synergistic conservation proliferates. Teams of professionals and community leaders will collaborate to convert poachers to protectors, monitor sustainability of human-nature synergy, and implement eco-social improvement projects. The study of non-human biology and behavior will be one of many conservation development services, sustained in the long term by practical interventions to transform human values and effect eco-social accountability. As we stretch beyond the utilitarian quest for natural products, we will come to value wild places for their intrinsic beauty, challenge, mystery, and interactive elegance. Ultimately we will assure that our efforts affirm humanity as part of "the biota of earth, interwoven in an ever-changing biosynergy, like threads on a multidimensional loom ... " (Rose, 1998b). Only thus will we realize our potential for becoming more than selfish humans ruling and consuming a vanishing natural world.
Conservation developers will need more than multidisciplinary competence and visionary strategy. We must gain the aid and involvement of the most wealthy and powerful people and agencies in the world. To succeed in the face of global resourcism and local anarchy, conservation must expand into a humane and moral social movement guided by five strategic imperatives:
- Social and moral leaders must promote humanity's profound obligation to conserve wildlife and wilderness and to restore the natural world.
- Political & economic authority must place conservation on par with human rights & welfare.
- Conservationists must shift from measuring biodiversity to assuring the eco-social synergy of humanity and nature.
- Public demand for intrinsic and spiritual values of nature must overtake utilitarian exploitation and underwrite conservation development.
- All wildlife habitats must be considered sacrosanct, and human intrusion must be managed in a moral, businesslike, and competent way for the global good.
Human Health Will Become Prime Mover in this Crisis. As I write this position paper, changes are occurring that radically alter the focus of this endeavor. In the past we have been looking at the explosion of illegal bushmeat commerce as a wildlife crisis. For the apes in particular it has manifest as a fight against extinction of humankind's closest living genetic kin. But that genetic kinship has been discovered to be progenitor of a crisis that threatens the health of humankind. Chimpanzees have been identified by medical scientists as the source of the viruses that have propagated the world AIDS crisis. Bushmeat hunting along each new logging road could bring out more than ape meat. It could transmit additional variants of SIV which then could mutate and recombine into novel HIV types and further expand the pernicious AIDS plague faced worldwide.
Virologists have begun to present their evidence in journals and at major international conferences (e.g.: Hahn, 1999a, b). They are telling the public two things. First, we must stop the hunting and butchering of wild chimpanzees in order to avoid transmission of new strains of SIV. Second, we must launch new programs to protect and study wild apes in their natural habitat. Chimpanzees are identical to humans in over 98% of their genome, yet they appear to be resistant to damaging effects of the AIDS virus on their immune system. By studying the biological reasons for this difference, AIDS researchers believe that they may be able to obtain important clues concerning the pathogenic basis of HIV-1 in humans and develop new strategies for treating the disease more effectively. In addition, a better understanding of exactly how the chimpanzee's immune system responds to SIV-CPZ infection compared to that of humans is also likely to lead to the development of more effective strategies for an HIV-1 vaccine. Coordinated biomedical research and conservation efforts will be key to preventing further spread of SIV/HIV and AIDS.
Complex Crisis Requires Complex Solutions. The escalation of the bushmeat crisis from a regional conservation challenge to a global health issue increases the complexity and potency of the crisis many times over. On every continent huge numbers of people are concerned about the AIDS epidemic. Some experts project up to 40% of the human population in some African nations has HIV and could die of AIDS related disease (Young, pers. comm.) Forms of HIV now coming under control may be replaced by variants that renew the scourge. The chimpanzee virus factor alters the priorities for conservation.
During three years of focus on illegal bushmeat commerce I have heard and conceived an ever expanding matrix of solutions to the many elements of the crisis. Ultimately all these solutions must be undertaken, if the destruction and dangers of the bushmeat business are to be reversed. Currently I see ten parts to the bushmeat crisis agenda -- all important. They are listed below in three groups. The first group includes items that are fundamental to initiating solutions. The second deals with urgent areas that need fast treatment. The third is solutions that are sustaining for the long term.
Group 1 (fundamental) : Global Alliance for Bushmeat Education and Control
- Bushmeat Campaign Alliance -- Organize social change and conservation groups, select government agencies, disease research/control organizations, agribusiness, and financial institutions to collaborate to stop the trade in commercial bushmeat and its concomitant adverse effects on apes and other endangered species, local cultures, natural ecosystems, and human health. Only by making the effective treatment of this crisis a requirement for international finance and development in Africa, will the needed changes occur.
- African Wildlife Protection Programs -- Endow and institutionalize permanent wildlife protection teams for established parks and reserves, as well as mobile units to work in resource extraction areas. These groups will use community-based preventive techniques, inform people about ecologic and health risks, encourage alternatives to bushmeat commerce, and enforce wildlife laws through interdiction and prosecution.
- Bushmeat Crisis Campaign -- Conduct international campaign to evoke public concern about the destructive effects of the African bushmeat crisis. Produce book and magazine materials as well as TV and cinema programs; finance and organize locally developed radio and newsprint campaigns to motivate protection of apes and other endangered wildlife and to stimulate conservation development in equatorial Africa.
Group 2 (urgent) : Multidisciplinary Crisis Intervention Field Projects
- Health Monitoring Systems -- Design and install methods to study, assess, monitor, prevent and treat interspecies viral and bacterial transmissions in territories where bushmeat hunting and commerce, animal pet and orphan caretaking, and other human contact with apes and other wildlife occurs.
- Natural Ecosystem Renewal -- Require and enable ecosystem exploiters to become conservation developers to establish bushmeat-free operations, develop effective wildlife and forest protection programs, provide ecologically renewable products for workers and commercial consumers, and integrate disease and eco-social synergy management into their field operations.
- Wildlife Protector Education -- Set up projects to recruit, train and re-employ bushmeat hunters as park guards, field assistants, census takers, tour guides, teachers and bushmeat monitors. Swift reduction of endangered ape and wildlife killing will come from in-situ projects that use hunters' skills and knowledge to support conservation.
- Bushmeat Orphan Recovery -- Develop and implement projects to seek and safeguard ape bushmeat orphans in hunting camps, homes, businesses, zoos, and sanctuaries and to employ them in education efforts to engender positive conservation values in local people and communities in regions where wildlife commerce is growing at highest rates.
Group 3 (sustaining) : Long-term Conservation Development Programs
- Eco-social Synergy Management -- Develop and install mechanisms to restore and maintain synergistic relationships between the natural ecology and human social systems in the widest possible range of primate habitat. Begin with territories where human exploitation threatens life and health of apes and monkeys, humans, and natural ecosystems the most.
- Bushmeat Alternatives -- Underwrite and develop alternative protein sources, nondestructive forest product and service businesses, ecologically sound community farms, and bushmeat-free markets and restaurants in forest, village, farm, and urban areas where domestic food and economic alternatives are needed most to counter commerce in endangered wildlife.
- Mobile Wildlife Missions -- Establish mobile training and development projects to travel the religious missionary and public school circuits and help teachers and pastors implement "wildlife missions" to increase awareness of the economic, ecological, and health dangers of the ape and endangered wildlife trade, foster moral and humanistic concerns for living wildlife, and initiate community-based conservation projects.
The treatment of these solutions as a whole can make a difference immediately and in the long term. Focus on any one item in isolation will eventually fail. Conservationists disagree as to which of the solutions is more important. It is time to accept that all are important; all must be done. And we must do them in collaboration, not in the usual competitive modes. The battles among egos, disciplines, professions, organizations, cultures, religions, and nations must be set aside now. I remain hopeful that this will be accomplished and that we can form and maintain truly effective multidisciplinary teams to confront this complex crisis with the good will and competence it requires. The future of apes and other wildlife, equatorial ecosystems, African societies, and human health depends on it.
* * *
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Rose, A. L. (1996b) Commercial exploitation of great ape bushmeat. Pp. 18-20 in Ngoufo, R., Pearce, J., Yadji, B., Guele, & Lima, L (Ed's), Rapport du seminaire sur l'impact de l'exploitation forestiere sur la faune sauvage, Cameroon MINEF & WSPA, Bertoua.
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* Anthony Rose is an applied social psychologist and organization developer who has studied macaques, apes, and humans, taught animal behavior and human psychosocial evolution, and consulted in the private sector and government on forest management, military diplomacy, religious community development, educational innovation, corporate strategic planning, and health care quality assurance. He now devotes most of his professional efforts to influencing the human dimensions of wildlife and wilderness conservation. His inquiries into the bushmeat crisis have focused on commercial hunting camps in Cameroon, while his research in human-primate interaction have covered most of the world where apes and monkeys live. Rose has been a fellow at the UCLA Brain Research Institute, founder of the Center for Studies of the Person, and director of organization design and research for Kaiser-Permanente. He is a founder of The Biosynergy Institute and the Southern California Primate Research Forum and a member of the IUCN/SSC African Primate Specialists Group. Rose is associate faculty at Antioch University Southern California where he now serves as director of the Institute for Conservation Education and Development.
A version of this paper has been distributed by the American Zoo Association to its member Zoos and other conservation organizations.
Readers are invited to contribute ideas and talent to the Biosynergy Institute's Bushmeat Project. Write The Bushmeat Project at P. O. Box 488, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 or e-mail to discuss how you can help.
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