Category Archives: bushmeat

Maasai eating of meat ceremony

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Experts Conclude that Bushmeat is a Menace to East African Wildlife

Researchers and conservationists from Kenya , Tanzania, Uganda and Southern Sudan concluded on 8 December 2009 that bushmeat was indeed one of the major threats to wildlife and peoples livelihoods. The experts, who had gathered for a two day workshop in Kampala, Uganda concluded that unless efforts are taken to eradicate this problem, then wildlife and peoples livelihoods would suffer.

dik-dik meat

In a press release issued by the Bushmeat-free East Africa Network (BEAN), an offshoot of the US Fish and Wildlife-sponsored  MENTOR Program, Communications Officer Iregi Mwenja said:

Despite the best efforts of governments, NGOs, the private sector and local communities to address threats to wildlife and their habitats, these threats continue and in some cases increase.


Mwenja, who says that addressing the bushmeat menace effectively requires partnerships that coordinate alternative livelihoods and protein development, increased bushmeat awareness and strengthened law enforcement and policy, feels that a network that seeks to establish consensus, identify gaps in knowledge, build awareness, improve capacity, and increase resources and dedicated action in the region on the bushmeat issue can provide this coordination.

Such a network is exemplified by the newly-formed Bushmeat-free Eastern Africa Network (BEAN) which by bringing together expertise on the bushmeat issue in a centralized network and providing support and coordination to ongoing conservation and development efforts, can help meet wildlife conservation goals.

“The partners of BEAN also plan to engage and share learning with other networks and programs working on this issue throughout Africa and other regions of the world,” he adds.

Iregi Mwenja can be reached for comments and interview on telephone  +254723713642 or via email: [email protected]

Orphaned baby gorillas go back to the wild in Gabon!

Dear Friends,

We have exciting news from the  Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project Foundation in Gabon about a successful transfer to the wild of orphaned baby gorillas. This is their press release.


Text by Sarah Monaghan, images by SCD B.V.


Gabon, August 2009 – SIX YOUNG GORILLAS, rescued from the illegal bush meat trade, have begun new independent lives on a lagoon island just outside Loango National Park in Gabon.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Staff at the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) are celebrating after announcing the successful transfer of the six juvenile western lowland gorillas (a species deemed critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List (IUCN)) onto the safe island in the Fernan-Vaz Lagoon.

Gorilla reintroduction Gabon

This is the first step in a reintroduction project that is hoped will allow them to return entirely to the wild and follows a three-year-long ‘rehab programme’ to prepare them for release.

One step closer to freedom

Gorilla reintroduction Gabon

Halfway through the Year of the Gorilla, the transfer marks the beginning of the gorillas’ independence. They have exchanged their human-built shelters for the palm-fringed forested islet where they can now live in relative safety from threats from poachers or other predators. The transfer was supervised by the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project (FGVP) director Nick Bachand and his team of Gabonese keepers.

“We all felt a hint of sadness as the gorillas left the place where their journey started,” said Nick Bachand, a veterinarian. “But this was instantly replaced with a mountain of pride when we observed some of the gorillas starting to build their own nests to sleep outside overnight.”

Building self-made nests is an important indication, among others, of the young gorillas’ progress during this second phase of their rehabilitation.

Tragic pasts

 Gorilla reintroduction Gabon

Each of the six gorillas (three females, three males) varying in ages from two to seven, were orphaned by the illegal bush meat trade.

The oldest male, Gimenu, 7, was rescued in an emaciated state from a Gabonese zoo where he had spent three years in complete isolation.  He is accompanied by Sindila, 4, an abandoned male found by tourists on a river excursion, and Ivindo, also 4, flown in from the Ivindo National Park in 2005.  The youngest female, Wanga, 2, was left on the doorstep of a conservationist’s home in the southern half of Loango National Park while the other two Cessé and Eliwa, 3 and 2, were donated by another great-ape rescue centre in Gabon.


Gorilla orphanage


The gorillas have spent the past two and a half years undergoing daily forest rehabilitation accompanied by their keepers on Evengue Island, located north of Loango National Park.

A small team of local keepers will continue to monitor their progress from a base camp in the central zone of Orique island, where their new home is.

The Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project comprises a Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Programme. All its resident gorillas were rescued after the parents were killed illegally by hunters for bush meat. The purpose of the Sanctuary is to provide a safe home for gorillas that can never return to the wild as they lack the critical survival skills usually taught by their parents in the first six to eight years of their lives.

The younger gorillas are part of its Rehabilitation Programme, however, and have undergone its quarantine and socialisation stages. They now have the potential to be reintroduced into the wild although many challenges and uncertainties remain.

‘Gorilla rehab’ plays strategic role in survival of great apes

The IUCN has identified the use of reintroduction projects as part of a global strategy for the survival of the world’s endangered great apes. The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) works closely with the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project and focuses wherever possible on reintroduction programmes.

“We have to find ways to restore value to Africa’s forests, and reintroduction places focus on the African wildlife in the African forests,” said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA.

He added: “It’s no good for any of us to aspire to having the world’s largest captive population of chimpanzees or gorillas – even if we are saving lives. That is not conservation and it is not sending messages that can be translated into environmental action.”

Return to the wild


Thanks to a team of devoted veterinarians, dedicated keepers and the support of the international community, these gorillas’ return to the wild in the Gabonese equatorial forest is expected within two to three years.

In the meantime, the project is working hard to raise local and global awareness on issues facing the gorillas, to encourage research that emphasises the needs of the local people, and to integrate responsible tourism, as part of a national and international effort to save the gorilla from extinction in the wild.

The Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project in Gabon is a project of Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) in affiliation with its main eco-tourism partner, Africa’s Eden. SCD has partnerships with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Max Planck Institute, the Gabonese Ministry of Forestry, and the Gabonese National Parks Agency (ANPN).

For more information

Ms. Tienke Vermeiden

E: [email protected]

T: +31 26 370 5567

Other interesting links:                           

Tough Times for our Bloggers

In the past week or so, our bloggers have been reporting some tough situations in their areas of work. From death of elephants to financial crises and other ravages of drought and the global economic crisis.

CERCOPAN of Nigeria were last week tittering on the edge of a financial cliff as they needed to raise US$ 3,333 in order to keep their premises and continue rescuing primates caught up in the deep rooted west African bushmeat trade. They launched an appeal for funds and WildlifeDirect has been helping them spread the word. As of today, they had raised US$1395 which is quite impressive. They however need some US$1,938 before the end of August to secure the 120 primates’ only place of sanctuary from the bushmeat insanity.

monkeys at Tacugama, WildlifeDirect

The Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) on Kenya is also facing a crisis with some of the most known African Elephants in the world starting to die because of the severe drought that is bringing Kenya and other east African states to their knees. They have lost valuable matriachs – and old friends – such as Echo, Grace, Isis, Leticia, Lucia, Odile, Ulla and Xenia in the last 1 year.  Echo, Isis, Leticia and Ulla have been matriarchs of their families since the 1970s. But the human hand is also dealing a blow to elephant conservation.

Ulla the elephant matriarch

Poaching is taking out the large bulls. In the last 10 days three more big males have been killed. One, Ebenezer, had his tusks cut out with a power saw. That should send a warning alarm to wildlife authorities in Africa – today’s poachers are more advanced in their brutality.

To fight these poachers, ATE has supported two ranger bases in Amboseli area. Now they need a third and need to raise US$ 10,000 to fund building the base and to keep it running. Please help them.

The bushmeat trade in western Africa is really messy and two young victims of this grim trade have arrived at Tacugama in Sierra Leone. This is in addition to the three that arrived recently and all together Tacugama has in their care 96 orphaned chimps. They are, quite literally, bursting at their seems with chimp orphans. That makes it all the more needy for funds to rehabilitate these little ones until they are ready to get back into the forest and fend for themselves. You would help them wouldn’t you?

chimp driving

While all this is going on, we at WildlifeDirect want to keep this channel open so that you and your friends can respond to these emergencies and day to day needs of the wildlife of Africa, Asia and South America.  We also need your direct support so that we can pay Internet bills, electricity, rent and staff who keep these blogs working. We want you to continue enjoying the happy moments with our bloggers. To laugh with them, and to cry with them when times are hard. After all, you don’t want to wake up one morning and find that there is no WildlifeDirect. I believe you would be worried about all the poor defenseless wildlife that have been benefiting from the existence of WildlifeDirect. Please don’t let this happen.

The important time of need for conservation

Looking back on the last year I can’t help but feel extremely grateful for all the support that we have received for WildlifeDirect. The economic crisis came as a big shock for everyone, it has an enormous impact on Africa, prices of fuel have doubled in Kenya, the price of ground maize, the staple for many, has tripled. People are starving in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, northern Kenya and Somalia. Many have resorted to harvesting what they can from the wild – seeds, berries and of course bushmeat.

Duiker bush meat

This photo taken by David Ngala in coastal Kenya reflects how people are depending more and more on bushmeat due to rising food prices. 

Trees are also suffering as the demand for fuel wood and charcoal for cooking has rocketed due to escalating prices of Kerosene and butane gas. We have witnessed rising prices of charcoal as well as increased rates of logging in many areas. This can be stopped if we help our conservation partners to keep up the vigilance. During this economic crisis, you help is needed more urgently than ever.

Perhaps the best thing you can do this Christmas and holiday season to help, is to make a donation towards a project of your choice, or perhaps buy a Christmas gift certificate for one of your friends.

We look foward to hearing from you

Wire Snares: Nasty, Costly and Very, Very Wrong

I read Iregi Mwenja’s first installation in his two-part series called Painful Death and I was quite disturbed. Looking at the pictures of animals trapped and helpless, or dead and rotting, or – perhaps even worse – maimed, was very upsetting.

Snared Antelope

As if on cue, Rosemary Groom of Zimbabwe Wild Dogs finally gets a picture of a wild dog puppy that she has been told that it was moving around with a wire snare still tightly digging into the flesh of its neck and she posts a blog entry. I very well know that wire snares are the “weapons” of choice for many subsistence and small scale commercial poachers. But these nasty, stomach heaving photos jolt me to a stark reality that may have gone sublime in my mind. It just looks painful how these animals die.

Snared dog at waterhole

I try to be rational and unemotional when discussing wildlife crime. I try to remain level headed but this method of harvesting bushmeat is simply barbaric. And it peels off my gentlemanly, unemotional, rational skin to expose the painful bare flesh that is my emotions. It is hard not to get emotional when you see this kind of death.

Iregi Mwenja says that statistics indicate 90% of the dead animals will go to waste as the poacher will either forget where he put his snares or he’ll never go back to check on them. The meat will just rot away. Granted, wild carnivores will eat some of the meat, but that also may well be contained in the 10% that is eventually utilized.

Then Iregi follows this with another installation in the second part of his series. This one is loaded with statistics. Suddenly, I am aware that a single David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) de-snaring team can remove an average of 450 wire snares in a month – working only two weeks a month. That there are several DSWT teams. That there are other organizations apart from the DSWT – such as Born Free Foundation – that are also carrying out some heavy de-snaring work. I suddenly am confronted with colossal numbers, and my heart threatens to stop. Iregi explains:

Just one de-snaring DSWT team lifts approximately 450 snares [per] month operating for a maximum of two weeks per month. One poacher can set at least 100 snares per day with a success rate of about 20% and about 15-20 poachers enter the park per day. With a success rate of about 20%, and assuming that one poacher sets about 100 snares a day, then 15 poachers have a probability of killing at least 300 animals per day. This figure may seems to be unrealistic. But the number of snares lifted per day and the number of animals found dead and those rescued by the de-snaring teams is a true testimony of the magnitude of the bushmeat crisis.

It is shocking, but it is the result of scientific research in one corner of Tsavo East National Park (where DSWT conducts most of its de-snaring operations). I am left wondering what the national, regional and global statistics are like. I wince.

Wire Snares

Rosemary gives us a clue as to how much it would cost to get a wire snare out of a single wild dog pup’s neck in her blog post. Suddenly, there is money involved, and I shudder like someone forgotten inside the butcher’s cold room. She explains:

Unfortunately, until I have my wildlife immobilization license…we need to rely on someone else to come and do the darting, and he is not always available at short notice. There is also a considerable cost associated with calling him out and getting the pup immobilized (US$100 per day fee plus the cost of drugs and fuel and scout time), and the current prevalence of snaring is really eating into our budget. (Likewise, for me to do [an immobilization] course so I can immobilize the dogs myself, costs US$1500).

That is only part of the story. Organizations such as DWST, Born Free and the African Wildlife Conservation Fund (Zimbabwe Wild Dogs) invest thousands of dollars in de-snaring operations. The Zimbabwe Wild Dogs project is already groaning under the weight of snaring happening in Zimbabwe. And that is just one part of the once wildlife rich nation (hopefully there are still wildlife surviving the madness that is governance in Zimbabwe).

These are deadly statistics – and painful pictures – of how dire the state of wildlife in Africa is. The Zimbabwe Wild Dog project has an appeal. They need your help on saving this little puppy, the rare species of which it belongs and other wildlife in Zimbabwe. Right now I ask you to urgently help them save this particular dog by donating through their blog. And continue to help them whenever you can in the future.

I read a book once, titled “Who Will Feed China?” and in the same fashion I will ask, who will save Africa’s wildlife?

Researcher Wants to Find “Sustainable Bushmeat”

A US geneticist from the University of Arizona is planning to use DNA testing to study the roaring bushmeat trade in west Africa with a view of identifying “species that can be harvested sustainably”.

According to a report on, the geneticist, Hans-Werner Herrmann, will analyze the bushmeat at village markets, track how it got there and study how the information could be used to better manage affected wildlife populations. He hopes that finding species that can be hunted sustainably will curtail poaching and halt wildlife decimation particularly in African forests.

According to Herrmann, rural Africans are driven into bushmeat hunting and trade by extreme poverty and he cannot just say it is bad to hunt without answering the poverty question.

Roughly 1 million tonnes of bushmeat are harvested in the badly ravaged African forests. a CIFOR report that Dr Richard Leakey felt had erred in its recommendations says that 80% of proteins and fats in rural Africans’ diets come from bushmeat. This is a big problem and solutions to bushmeat hunting need to be found before all wildlife becomes extinct.

The study will involve African researchers in Cameroon taking DNA samples from bushmeat in the markets, and sending it to Arizona for analysis and identification. They will then track how the meat got to the market and study how the information can be used to help in management of the affected wildlife populations.

How useful this study will be is subject to debate. Particularly, when they find wildlife species that they perceive to be “bushmeat viable”, does it mean that they will recommend legalization of bushmeat hunting? Perhaps we need this research to prove that there is no way bushmeat can be harvested sustainably.

There are three things that make sustainable hunting virtualy impossible: one, there is not enough wildlife, two, there are too many humans on the planet, and three, our African governments have problems implementing anti-poaching legislation. To me, these are the fundamental questions: not whether wildlife can be harvested sustainably.

Perhaps the researchers – who by the way have applied for a $1-million from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) for the study – should use these funds to find out how we can prevent the malignant human population growth from overrunning the planet and all wild things that live in it. Better still, these funds could be used to find alternatives sources of protein and income (poverty reduction) for the rural poor in Africa. Alternatives that are not bushmeat.

For wildlife populations to recover, and to avoid imminent mass extinctions, all manner of wildlife trade needs to be stopped – at the very least, as a precaution. We don’t really understand wildlife population dynamics that well to sustainably use it. We haven’t yet fathomed the complex interaction between humans and wildlife to say that we are in control of hunting and trade.

We know a few things though. One, bushmeat hunting has already resulted in the empty forest syndrome, where the forest vegetation is relatively intact but no wild animals live there. Two, governments have good legislation intended to control bushmeat poaching but implementation is weak. Three, losing our wildlife is not good for the planet.

With these truths in mind, perhaps what we need is to stop all human-centric arguments that perpetuate eating of wildlife and start focusing on finding ways to improve wildlife’s welfare.