Bushmeat is the term coined and commonly used for the meat of terrestrial wild animals, killed for subsistence or commercial purposes throughout the humid tropics of the Americas, Asia and Africa. Bushmeat species include apes, other primates, ungulates, rodents, birds and some invertebrates. The act of hunting bush meat is very common in sub-Saharan Africa’s dense forests, where endangered gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos, as well as other primate species live.
For quite sometime, it has been believed that bushmeat consumption widespread to only western and central Africa. This ignorance prevails because bushmeat is thought to be a form of subsistence hunting isolated to the poor of Africa, as a cheap form of food their families and villages. However, new evidence from Justin Brashares, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of California, Berkeley and his team, show that they have found the,
“…illegal meat in markets in Paris, Brussels, London, New York City, Montreal, Toronto, and Los Angeles.
The team documented 27 instances of gorilla or chimpanzee parts being sold. They found that most illegal meat is carried in suitcases and also is shipped in parcels and large containers coming through JFK and Miami airports. Inspectors say they can only catch about one percent of the total coming into the country, sadly.
As culturally sensetive as I try to be I can’t believe there are some people that think busmeat is a delicacy. They must be outstandingly jaded. I won’t even touch the argument that the transport of this meat is less than sanitary… but what about the one that primates harbour pathogens that also affect humans? Ebola for instance is epidemic in chimps and gorillas, and spread to humans during the butchering and hunting of such animals. One of the many hypotheses that attempt to explain how HIV crossed over to humans is that the virus passed into people by this hunting and/or butchering of an ape, most probably a chimpanzee or gorilla. Hunting and butchering produces blood splatters that easily create infective aerosols.
All in all, you aren’t disgusted at this, then I don’t know what to say… I’ll just leave with some images of bushmeat from photographer Karl Ammann.
“An early bush-meat picture with a very representative story behind it. That morning we were pulled out of a bush taxi at a road junction to record a statement with the police. Our taxi went on with the rest of the passengers, and we had to wait for the next one the next day. We then met a hunter while walking along the road. He told us that he had killed a female gorilla that morning. The police chief of Moloundou—a town farther south—had sent him the rifle requesting him to ‘get some gorilla meat.’ He shot the female gorilla that morning and sent the gun and the carcass back on the daily bush-taxi run. He was allowed to keep the head and one arm for his efforts. He proved this story by taking us to his kitchen, where I took this picture after he lifted the basket that had covered the head.”
“Gorilla hands are considered a delicacy and are served to the guest of honor at official functions. The Dutch Catholic bishop of Bertoua told me that even after more than a decade in the region, he was still regularly served gorilla hands and feet—even after he consistently rejected them.”
“This person, on the way home from shopping at one of the Libreville bush-meat markets, carries a ‘bagged’ male mandrill. Libreville, the capital of Gabon, is headquarters to many Western conservation nongovernmental organizations. It is the one major town in central Africa where the meat of a wide range of endangered species is still openly on display.”
“This chimp orphan is being kept captive as a plaything for children.
“Crocodiles like this one have the misfortune of being transported alive in this tied condition. Fresh meat earns a higher price than smoked meat at the bush-meat market.”
“A fetish seller in Yaoundé displays snakeskins, many gorilla skulls, and an elephant jaw. A fetish is an object or an animal that is believed to have powerful magic that can help humans.”
“A hunter returning from a morning’s outing with a typical ‘bag’ of guenons. This productivity level will decline fast as soon as commercial hunting takes off.”
“A Pygmy butchers a silverback gorilla. They shot the ape on the way back from an elephant hunt after they lost a wounded bull elephant.”