Bushmeat Hunting and Wildlife Declines in West AfricaPage Heading

Introduction:

In developing countries the use of wild animals for food, the bushmeat trade, is a multibillion dollar business that has greatly reduced wild animal populations. Ghana is a small, relatively prosperous developing country in West Africa with a population of only 20 million, and yet it takes at least 400,000 tons of animal meat out of the wild each year.

Justin Brashares and his colleagues counted the amounts and types of mammals recorded over the years in Ghana's nature reserves and found that there has been a 76 percent decline from 1970 to 1998, with local extinctions occurring in many locations1. In addition to counting the animals the authors looked at the economics of the bushmeat trade and discovered a connection between it and fish supplies. Fish provides a large majority of the animal protein for Ghanians, but when fish supplies falter and fish becomes expensive, bushmeat hunting increases. Conversely when fish prices go down so does hunting pressure on wildlife.

The offshore fishing industry in West Africa is largely unregulated and supports a large distant-water fleet from European Union countries, and a substantial amount of pirate fishing. The EU subsidized their fishing fleet with over $350 million in 2001 alone, artificially increasing the profitability of fishing in West African waters despite declining fish stocks. The EU could help relieve the economic pressure driving the bushmeat trade by changing the way they exploit and manage marine resources in West African waters.

Another approach to reducing the bushmeat trade is to improve farming practices in the tropics to help feed the growing and rapidly urbanizing population.

We spoke with Justin Brashares about his conservation work in Africa.

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