Ebola, Forests And Bushmeat: Making Sense of a Crisis
3 September 2014
The current Ebola crisis in Africa has drawn attention to the link between the animal-borne virus and bushmeat, a crucial source of food for tens of millions of people.
Media are invited to use a package of articles, research papers and multimedia related to the Center for International Forestry Research’s work on bushmeat and deforestation in Africa, here: blog.cifor.org/bushmeat-and-ebola
The package includes a video interview with CIFOR Deputy Director Dr. Robert Nasi about the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa.
A ban on the hunting of forest-based wildlife in hopes of stemming the possible spread of the Ebola virus in Africa would be impracticable: Tens of millions of Africans rely on bushmeat for up to 80 percent of their protein, and a ban could never be enforced, as there is no alternative source of protein, said Nasi, who has been studying bushmeat in Africa for more than 10 years.
People living in Africa’s Congo Basin, for example, eat about 5 million tons of bushmeat annually: “That's about the equivalent of the cattle production of Brazil or the European Union,” he said. Producing the same amount of meat by cattle ranching would require converting up to 25 million hectares of forest into farmland — roughly the size of Great Britain.
Bushmeat hunting is largely illegal in many countries in Africa, but weak law enforcement undermines any efforts to actually stop the trade: For example, in Cameroon alone, there are believed to be 460,000 hunters.
Nasi said that with growing populations and improved roads and other transport links, the world should expect to see more outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases.
CIFOR is calling for more research to understand the value chain of the bushmeat trade — a difficult task given that the trade is carried out informally, often illegally and unsustainably.