|Crocodiles, Mbandaka market, RDC|
In the framework of research at AfricaMuseum, Tervuren, I’m working on a project provisionally entitled ‘Bushmeat: The culture and economy of eating wild animals in central Africa’. The objective of the research is to study the urban appetite for bushmeat in a culturally sensitive way and to give voice to the hunters, transporters, traders, consumers and other protagonists in bushmeat crisis dynamics.
This blog entry is a way of sharing my current research and inviting
colleagues to share their work in the event of common research interests. Any
collaboration on these themes will be welcomed. Please contact: email@example.com
|Smoked monkey meat, Mankoto, Salonga Park, DRC|
Wildlife conservation and the
illegal wildlife trade have become political priorities and a household concern
in much of the world. Elephants are being massacred with military weapons for
their ivory while rhinos are being poached to extinction for the perceived
medicinal and symbolic characteristics of their horn. Less well-known, but
equally serious, are the dynamics of over-hunting in central Africa to satisfy
urban demand for wild meat. Once sustainable, hunting has become a massive
commercial business to feed the region’s swelling cities.
The ‘bushmeat crisis’ referred
to by conservationists is real: every year, central Africans consume
approximately half as much bushmeat as Brazil produces beef. Ecocide for
environmentalists, eating wild animals is just a way of life for many people in
Africa. Law enforcement, awareness-building and community involvement are some
of the measures being implemented but the slaughter goes on.
|Bonobo in natural habitat, Kokolopori, DRC|
|Protected species poster, Equateur Province, DRC|
attachment to bushmeat, its political economy, urban consumption trends and the
legal framework are the keys to understanding the challenges and solutions.
Based on extensive field interviews and a comprehensive review of the relevant
literature, this volume presents a startling account of one of the
Anthropocene’s catastrophes in the making.
|Menu, Kisangani restaurant, DRC|
This research provides an interdisciplinary account of
bushmeat consumption in central Africa. Culture, economy, biodiversity, public
health and conservation law and enforcement are its main themes. Practically
all forms of wildlife from the largest emblematic mammals to the smallest
invertebrates are eaten. The shift from subsistence rural consumption to
commercialised urban use can be explained by the development of trade networks
(ranging from the small-scale and informal to the well-organized and
politically connected), urbanisation dynamics, cultural and symbolic attachment
and institutional constraints. All of these elements translate into soaring
bushmeat consumption on the urban landscape - be it at home, as street food or
in restaurants. It has direct consequences on biodiversity, local economies and
This research is necessary
because it will contribute to wildlife management strategies by informing policy decisions. Donors are investing
millions of dollars every year in the region to improve wildlife management in
and outside of national parks but they are only recently trying to implement
actionable ideas about the drivers and obstacles to behavior change regarding
bushmeat consumption. It is also necessary because of its compelling content.
It tells the story of a multifaceted global problem that is little-known - and
often ideological and judgmental. There is a biodiversity element. The Congo
Basin in home to the world’s second largest contiguous rainforest and wildlife
directly contributes to the sustainability of the forest. The ‘empty forest’
syndrome needs to be made known – without wild animals, forest dynamics suffer.
The urban bushmeat trade is an important contribution to local economies:
multiple levels of actors earn their livings from bushmeat. The research also reveals
a worrying public health dimension: the countries in the region have little or
no large-scale animal production or ranching industries so meat is either
imported or harvested from the wild. Studies show the importance of bushmeat to
both urban and rural diets. Another public health dimension relates to animal-to-human diseases such as HIV and Ebola.
|Me with hunters, Luki Biosphere Reserve, DRC|
|Wire cables for sale for hunting snares, Tshupa Province, DRC|