All of the great apes of Africa, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas are endangered by human population growth, habitat destruction, illegal trafficking of apes for entertainment, private zoos and hunting. Bushmeat trade is the commercial hunting and selling of wild animals for food. It is very different from subsistence hunting, which comprises killing animals for food for a family or village. Once money is involved, anything goes. Even mothers with babies are shot which is, of course, tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden egg. It is not sustainable. In the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central and West Africa this is one of the most serious threats to chimpanzees and other endangered animals, which will result in ever more species becoming endangered.
It was in the 1980s when foreign logging companies moved in and the bushmeat trade took off. Even when companies were practicing sustainable forestry, they opened up the forests with roads. Hunters, riding the logging trucks, were able to penetrate into previously inaccessible areas where most species, including chimpanzees, were still plentiful. Roads were also built for mining and oil and gas operations. Hunters would camp at the end of the road and, after days of shooting or trapping, get transport back to town with their smoked or sun-dried meat. Other hunters simply stayed, selling their catch to the staff of the extraction companies. For many wealthy African city dwellers, bushmeat is a status symbol proving that they can stay true to their culture. Some of the meat even finds its way to African communities overseas.
Various organizations are trying to control and prevent this illegal trade in a number of ways. As a result, some logging companies, such as CBC, working with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in northern Congo, have issued orders to prevent their drivers from transporting bushmeat. However, this is too often hard to enforce. I have met drivers who were threatened if they refused to comply with hunters' demands, and often it is the same for law enforcement officers in rural areas.
It is not only wild animals whose lives are threatened by the bushmeat trade--people do not appreciate the risks to their own health. There is increasing evidence of the danger to humans caused by handling, cutting
the flesh and cooking certain kinds of wild animals. The Ebola virus, devastating more and more areas of West Africa, is thought to be transmitted by fruit bats...