Bush meat a danger for wildlife and wildlife tourism

Wildlife Tourism Australia member Wisdom Jonny of Ghana has sent the following:

Despite the efforts of government in several African countries to convince native people to stop hunting animals in the wild for food,it is still ongoing in several countries on the continent.

The term bush meat, also called wild meat and game meat, refers to meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds hunted for food in tropical forests. Commercial harvesting and the trade of wildlife is considered a threat to biodiversity. Many countries in Africa, especially West Africa, consume bush meat. Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and several others practice this culture. Bush meat is considered a delicacy over chicken or mutton. Over the years, the government of Ghana through the Forestry Commission and the Ghana Wildlife Society, have enacted rules and regulations that guides the hunting of animals and birds in the wild. But those laws are rarely enforced, making it easy for Ghanaian hunters to constantly flout the rules and regulations. In Ghana, the Wildlife Society gives licenses to hunters to kill grasscutters and antelopes for food. Several wildlife advocates have spoken against these phenomena but the argument was that, grasscutters and antelopes may hardly go extinct. It is surprising to note that the act of bushmeat hunting has now moved rapidly to the hunting of bats, Ibex, bush pig, bush dog, monkeys, pythons, tortoises, and several others.

The situation in the future may be a great threat to Wildlife Tourism as it has the potential to put several rare species into extinction.

We welcome comments on this topic.

The practice appears prevalent in many African, South American and Asian countries and island nations, and is often important to the culture of the region and to the welfare of locals when protein is otherwise scarce, but if not conducted within ecologically sustainable harvesting practices it has the potential to negatively influence wildlife conservation, wildlife tourism and ultimately also the availability of wild meat to populations that have indeed over-exploited the resource.

There has been controversy in Australia also in regard to Aboriginal hunting of dugong, turtle and other protected species, or when wildlife close to national parks (which may be park residents wandering out) are hunted, all of which is permitted by legislation but in some areas may not be ecologically sustainable the way it may have been in the past, before the destruction of so much habitat and other pressures on our wildlife, and before the current temptation in some areas of harvesting more than is needed by the local population, for instance to sell at markets or to tourists. 

Issues of animal welfare have also been raised concerning some hunting methods, and some of these seem legitimate where there are quicker ways of killing now available compared to some of the traditional methods, but it should be remembered that the treatment of domestic livestock on farms (especially factory farms) and abattoirs is also often found wanting, and where loss of consciousness is swift using traditional methods, the welfare of the animal throughout its life should be considered.  

Again, we welcome comments on this rather complex topic which sometimes brings wildlife conservation and traditional rights into conflict, but hopefully a conflict that can be resolved by sensitive discussion, research into impacts, and effective legislation which protects both wildlife and human welfare.