- An upsurge in hunting bushmeat in tropical forests and blanket ban on bushmeat poses a serious threat to food security for poor inhabitants of forests in Africa, a new report from Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has warned.
The report has urged policy makers to develop policies aimed at protecting endangered species, while allowing sustainable hunting. "Otherwise, some large wildlife species, such as elephants and gorillas, will be extinct within 50 years," it however said.
A report estimated that current harvest of bushmeat in Central Africa amounts to one million tonnes annually - the equivalent of almost four million herd of cattle.
"If large mammals are hunted to extinction, this will pose a serious threat to food security for millions of people," the report warns.
One of the report's authors Robert Nasi said if current levels of hunting persist in Central Africa, bush meat protein supplies will fall dramatically, and a significant number of forest mammals will become extinct.
However, the report argues it is important to distinguish between rural poor, who hunt for survival and those who engage in activity purely as a commercial venture.
"If local people are guaranteed benefits of sustainable land use and hunting practices, they will be willing to invest in sound management and negotiate selective hunting regimes," said Frances Seymour, Director General of CIFOR.
He said sustainable management of bushmeat resources requires bringing the sector out into the open, removing stigma of illegality, and including wild meat consumption in national statistics and planning.
The report said many attempts to crack down on hunting of bush meat are misguided and a blanket ban on sales of bush meat simply would not work, but would bring misery to those who hunt for survival.
Overall, international trade in wild animal products has an estimated value of £2billion. CIFOR said European countries are responsible in driving demand and also for other resources, which indirectly cause an increase in the need for bushmeat by relocating families to forest areas for logging, mining and drilling.
Mr Nasi further said "crackdown" advocated by some conservation organisations has led to confusion in many communities, saying rules should be enforced to stop endangered animals being hunted and alternatives should be provided.
"Only if the local hunter is bestowed with some right to decide what, where and how he may hunt - as well as the knowledge to understand consequences of his decisions - will he embrace his responsibility to hunt sustainably," he said.
The report emphasises that it is of critical to craft a specific approach for different cases and species, while also recommending that policymakers look to other renewable resource sectors, such as fishing and logging, for clues on how to develop a sustainable management strategy for bushmeat.
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