A man holds up bushmeat, Papua, Indonesia.
Photo: © Agus Andrianto/CIFOR

The link between the animal-borne virus and bushmeat

Bushmeat is part of the regular diet for many people and not easy to replace. Faced with the current Ebola crisis, options have to be found to stem bushmeat consumption and illegal hunting.

The current Ebola crisis in Africa (2014) has drawn attention to the link between the animal-borne virus and bushmeat, a crucial source of food for tens of millions of people.

A ban on the hunting of forest-based wildlife in hopes of stemming the possible spread of the Ebola virus in Africa would be impracticable: Tens of millions of Africans rely on bushmeat for up to 80 per cent of their protein, and a ban could never be enforced, as there is no alternative source of protein, according to experts from CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research). 

People living in Africa’s Congo Basin, for example, eat about 5 million tons of bushmeat annually. Producing the same amount of meat by cattle ranching would require converting up to 25 million hectares of forest into farmland — roughly the size of Great Britain.

Bushmeat hunting is largely illegal in many countries in Africa, but weak law enforcement undermines any efforts to actually stop the trade: For example, in Cameroon alone, there are be-lieved to be 460,000 hunters.

With growing populations and improved roads and other transport links, the world should expect to see more outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases, according to the experts.

CIFOR is calling for more research to understand the value chain of the bushmeat trade — a difficult task given that the trade is carried out informally, often illegally and unsustainably.

More information:  CIFOR