In Defense of Animals
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The illegal, commercial bushmeat trade and habitat loss are the primary threats to ape populations. In addition to chimpanzees and gorillas, the bushmeat crisis affects many species of monkeys, antelopes, buffalo, forest elephants, birds, crocodiles, and tortoises.

People of rural Cameroon have traditionally hunted and eaten forest animals, and as their population increases, they encroach more and more on forests, not only hunting but also slashing and burning for agriculture. But the environmental impact of these subsistence farmers and traditional hunters is dwarfed by comparison with the impact of the commercial exploitation of forests and wildlife.

Read about a Sanaga-Yong Center volunteer 's personal experience...

Baby chimpanzee, Moabi, was injured with a machete by the hunter who killed his mother.

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Adult gorilla victim of the illegal
bushmeat trade.

Logging and the Bushmeat Trade
During the last two decades, European and Asian logging companies have built roads deep into the heart of the last remaining forests of Cameroon. Large logging crews create a market for commercial hunters who either follow the logging camps or live in villages nearby. Animals are illegally slaughtered in vast numbers to sustain these crews. At the same time, logging trucks are often used to transport bushmeat to other markets.

Because the forests of Cameroon are heterogeneous - they contain many different species of trees - often they are not clear-cut. The loggers may take many trees but leave those that offer no commercial value. After they have reaped their profits, they take their destructive chainsaws and leave, but the roads they have made into the forests remain.

And…so do the commercial hunters. Surviving animals who try to return to the decimated forest fall victim to hunters' intent on selling their corpses in urban markets. The logging roads continue to serve as conduits for illegal bushmeat.

Dead monkeys in meat market in Bertoua

This bushmeat in urban markets is not bought and consumed out of necessity by hungry people. Demand is created by cultural preference. The meat of domestic animals is available in the city markets and is usually less expensive. In fact, as certain species like chimpanzees and gorillas have become rare, their meat has become very expensive. Ape meat is now a delicacy of the wealthy elite, signifying status for those who serve it at banquets and other formal gatherings. 


What about solutions?

Confiscated casualties of the illegal bushmeat trade

1. Existing laws must be enforced. Cameroon law allows for stiff penalties, including fines and prison sentences, for people who kill or capture endangered species and also for those who buy or sell them, either alive or dead. The political will to enforce these laws is increasing slowly and the government has recently established a Bushmeat Task Force. IDA-Africa is working with the government of Cameroon to encourage enforcement of the laws, especially those pertaining to the holding, buying or selling of captive chimpanzees. 

2. Massive education and sensitization campaigns must inform Cameroonians about the endangered status of great apes and other species and about the wildlife protection laws and their stiff penalties. In addition, information about the wonderful and unique qualities of various animals can help sensitize people and create pride in the country's wildlife. IDA-Africa is developing extensive education outreach programs, has built an education center, and is launching a national radio campaign.

3. The system of parks and protected areas must be extended and the government of Cameroon and non-profit organizations working in cooperation with the government must increase funding for protection of these areas.

4. Finally, economic opportunity for the people of Cameroon must be increased. Corruption must be curtailed to enable foreign investment in environmentally friendly projects and businesses that create jobs and a secure financial infrastructure.  IDA-Africa employs 23 full-time Cameroonians with a fair wage and health care, has created a economy in the local villages where none had ever existed before by purchasing fruit and vegetables, and utilizes services from Cameroonian-owned businesses.

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