Efforts to reduce bushmeat trade in the Green Heart of Africa

Finding an end to the crisis

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Olivier VAN BOGAERT
Transboundary patrol with confiscated wildlife and snares, Djembé, Cameroon.
© WWF-Canon / Olivier VAN BOGAERT
With millions of people dependent on bushmeat for their protein needs and thousands making a living off this trade, it is proving extremely challenging to reduce the flow of dead meat coming out of the forests of the Congo River Basin.

WWF is actively seeking ways to keep wildlife inside the forests – where it belongs.

Bushmeat trade is threatening the survival of several species, including duikers and gorillas. It can also pose health risks, such as ebola disease.

Various strategies have been implemented to curb the bushmeat crisis. While some attempts have been made to deal with the issue at the source (e.g. anti-poaching patrols around protected areas and logging concessions), others have focused on consumers (e.g. education and awareness campaigns).

Clamping down on poaching

WWF’s Jengi project has initiated anti-poaching operations with the participation of logging companies and the police. The patrols were the first in a series of collaborative activities between the Jengi Project and ECOFAC.

Dja, Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks, which have been proposed as World Heritage Sites, have also received funds from the United Nations Foundation to reinforce law enforcement operations and management infrastructure.

WWF is providing technical, material and financial support to these efforts and has been active in promoting law enforcement operations and procedures.

Through WWF’s intervention, concessions bordering the Minkébé Forest Reserve in Gabon, Lake Lobéké National Park in Cameroon and Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Congo-Brazzaville have all put in place measures to control bushmeat exploitation.

These include sanctions on employees and drivers involved in hunting or transportation, closing roads to prevent access to hunters, providing alternative food sources, and closer collaboration with international NGOs and government authorities.

Similar efforts are under way with the Gamba Project, in Gabon. WWF Gamba provided technical and financial support for the development of a wildlife management plan for a logging company (CBG), which is active in the northeastern parts of the Gamba Complex of Protected Aeas

Bringing together government actors

The collaboration of government services is critical to secure successes against poaching. To this end, the Jengi Project has facilitated the creation of a consultative forum bringing together local services of the Cameroon Ministry of Environment and Forests, the police and the judiciary.

Working together, these parties have achieved great success in arresting and bringing poachers to court. This has significantly reduced poaching and is also sending a strong dissuading message to potential poachers and bush meat traders .

What will be critical in the future however is curbing the demand that keeps driving the bushmeat trade in the forests of the Green Heart of Africa. Only when this has been resolved can we expect to see the tide of threatened wildlife begin to ebb.

We don't live anymore like we used to. Before we could eat many times during the day, today, there is less meat, and we must go to the market and buy fish.

Mathieu Messamela
a Bagyeli pygmy and the chief of the Nkongo village

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