We are a network of partners working to address the threat of the commercial bushmeat trade across Central Africa

Photo Credit: R. Boratto/WCS

Photo Credit: T.J. Jensen

Pangolin bushmeat in a market within the Congo Basin

Uncontrolled commercial bushmeat trade in Central Africa is one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time. The trade in bushmeat, or wild meat, in Central Africa occurs at a colossal scale - estimated already at 2 million tons annually fifteen years ago (Fa et al., 2003). In recent years, urban expansion, growth in extractive industries along with weak enforcement of wildlife laws has led to an intensification of uncontrolled and unsustainable hunting across the sub-region. At current rates of exploitation, in particular to supply the growing urban demand for bushmeat, many protected species face local extinction (Ripple et al., 2016, Wilkie et al., 2016, Bowen-Jones et al., 2003). This impacts not only forest structure and functioning, but also the protein supply and other services essential to rural communities. At present, the offtake of wildlife for the commercial bushmeat trade is largely unregulated and unsustainable. Despite this, there have been recent calls from some organizations for the liberalization of the commercial bushmeat trade. In response, some governments in Central Africa are now considering legalizing their commercial bushmeat trade. Such efforts, if not properly controlled, could rapidly undermine the progress achieved by wildlife conservation organizations across Central Africa. Therefore, a strong, science-based voice is needed to tell the story of at-risk wildlife species and the impacts they would face from a legalized commercial trade in wild meat.