Bushmeat: Life vs. Death
(Wikimedia: Endangered lemurs are killed for bushmeat in Madagascar)
“How do you balance the need for biodiversity conservation with human health?…Published in the Nov. 22 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Christopher Golden’s research paper reports on a yearlong study, conducted in the northeast corner of Madagascar, that found that lost access to bush meat would lead directly to a 30 percent relative increase in malnutrition among children 12 years old and younger.”(Harvard Staff Writer, Peter Reuell)
In “Economic and geographic drivers of wildlife consumption in Africa” Justin S. Brashares chooses not to answer this question and instead examines the individual and interactive factors of wealth, relative food prices, market access, and the opportunity costs of time spent hunting on household rats of wildlife consumption in 2,000 households from 96 settlements in Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Madagascar in order to simultaneously consider poverty and biodiversity loss in rural Africa (Brashares et al., 2011).
In order to avoid the web of variants associated with developing a general theory over an entire sub-continent, Brashares has decided to focus his attentions only on the economical and geographical perspective of bushmeat consumption and transformed raw country data into relative scales available for direct comparisons (Brashares et al., 2011)
The data collected from this study revealed that wealthier households consume more bushmeat in settlements nearer urban areas, but the opposite pattern is observed in more isolated settlements (Brashares et al., 2011). Also, wildlife hunting and consumption function as a safety net for populations near harvestable wildlife and broken alternative livelihoods (Brashares et al., 2011).
Though urban and rural settlers consume bushmeat, Brashares believes that conservation efforts need to be focused on the rural poor (Brashares et al., 2011). Schulte-Herbrüggen’s article “The Importance of Bushmeat in Livelihoods of West African Cash-Crops Farmers Living in a Faunally-Depleted Landscape” strengthens this claim (Schulte-Herbrüggen et al., 2013).
Schulte-Herbrüggen’s study quantified the role of bushmeat in diversified rural household economies in a rural, faunally-depleted region in Ghana and discovered that despite heavily depleted wildlife and diversified livelihoods, bushmeat continues to have a significant role in livelihoods by acting as a safety net during times of economic adversity (Schulte-Herbrüggen et al., 2013).
Thus, we return to the question of, how do we find a balance between the duty of conservationists and the malnourished children of Sub-Saharan Africa?
C. Josh Donlan’s idea of rewilding the bushmeat in North America may solve the disappearing pile of bushmeat dilemma but what about the African people (Donlan et al., 2006)? We need a more balanced solution.
Brashares and Schulte-Herbrüggen both suggest offering those heavily dependent on bushmeat non-hunting jobs on or off the farm (Brashares et al., 2011 and Schulte-Herbrüggen et al., 2013). But, how would this get started?
There are so many unanswered questions in this investigation and more research on bushmeat hunting in the rural and urban areas of Africa is critical. Lack of available data makes it difficult to determine the extent of threat relative to other concerns, to evaluate whether the threat is increasing in scope, or to estimate how the threat varies in time and space.
Conserving wildlife populations in Africa will be difficult, and each country has its unique struggles, but it is crucial for developers to include public health officials and conservation officials in the future plans to come. Whatever the plan or solution is, there needs to be a balance between the needs of nature and the needs of impoverished people in rural Africa.
Brashares, J.S., Golden, C.D., Weinbaum, K.Z., Barrett, C.B. and Okello, G.V. 2011.Economic and geographic drivers of wildlife consumption in rural Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108:13931-13936.
Donlan, C.J., Berger J., Bock, C.E., Bock, J.H., Burney, D.A., Estes, J.A., Foreman, D., Martin P.S., Roemer, G.W., Smith, F.A., Soulé, M.E., and Greene, H.W.2006.Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation. The American Naturalist 168: 660-681.
Schulte-Herbrüggen, B., Cowlishaw G., Homewood K., and Rowcliffe, J.M. 2013. The Importance of Bushmeat in the Livelihoods of West African Cash-Crop Farmers Living in a Faunally-Depleted Landscape. PLOS ONE 8(8): e72807. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072807