Conference on Biodiversity: Addressing unsustainable use of wild animals
Nearly all the world’s remaining wild gorillas and chimpanzees live in Central and West Africa and several key populations face extinction. The commercial trade in bushmeat – the killing of wild animals for food, medicine, or profit –severely threatens these populations. In Africa, the bushmeat problem is rampant, triggered by poverty, loss of habitat and greed. Civil wars, often caused by conflict for ownership of natural resources including forestry and mining, aggravate the problem.
In Central Africa alone, an estimated 579 million forest mammals are consumed annually. And in my recent travels around South-East Asia, I sat with wildlife conservation officers as they demonstrated the ruthless efficiency of simple snares that capture, maim or kill any animal that happens to wander into the trap– whether wild pig or baby elephant. Perhaps no international agreement has devoted more time and energy addressing this complicated issue than the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The first line of the operational document on bushmeat at the CBD SBSTTA states that “over-exploitation of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians in many tropical and sub-tropical countries is increasingly threatening food security and livelihoods, and is causing significant biodiversity loss.” Indeed, even the document recognizes that the rate of bushmeat hunting may be six times greater than sustainable levels, a good indication how harmful the current level of bushmeat hunting and how far we are from ecologically sustainable levels. Consequently, we support that CBD has “identified the unsustainable hunting and trade of wild fauna for bushmeat” as priority issues.
To address this enormously complicated and difficult issue, the CBD Liaison Group on Bushmeat adopted a number of national and international recommendations. These recommendations include increasing capacity to fully evaluate the bushmeat problem, engaging the private sector and extractive industries to promote best practices, reviewing national policies and legal frameworks to restrict harvesting in protected areas and of threatened or endangered species, developing food alternatives, capacity building, education, and law enforcement capacity.
Although the International Fund for Animal Welfare still has some concerns about certain provisions of the document, we will work to ensure that a progressive and pragmatic set of recommendations is brought to the next COP in Hyderabad, India next year.