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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 15:09 GMT
Cameroon demands bushmeat action
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Gorilla   BBC
Great apes are already under pressure
The rate at which Africa is devouring its wildlife is entirely unsustainable, Cameroon's Environment Minister says.

He is demanding international action to control the trade, which produces as much as five million tonnes of bushmeat from the Congo basin alone every year.

The trade threatens the survival of several already endangered species, including elephants and great apes.

The minister, Chief Clarkson Oben Tanyi-Mbianyor, is visiting London to address a Bushmeat Campaign conference.

The campaign says Mr Tanyi's call for international cooperation is the first time any African leader has made such a proposal.

Time to stop

The aim of the conference is to secure agreement on how to tackle the unsustainable bushmeat trade, in which London plays a prominent part.

Elephant   BBC
Forest elephants are targets
Other speakers include Ghana's Minister for Lands and Forests, Dominic Fobih, the Okyenhene (tribal king) of Akyem Abuakwa in eastern Ghana, the UK's International Development Minister, Gareth Thomas MP, and representatives of the timber trade.

Mr Tanyi told BBC News Online: "I am calling on our partners to try to help our efforts in fighting the bushmeat trade.

"What we are saying is that we cannot go on selling bushmeat, because people believe in looking after the environment.

"It's not local consumption that's the problem, but the wider trade, taking the meat into the towns and out of the country.

"So we're calling on our partners to fight the trade by helping us to recruit and train eco-guards, and by providing local people with alternative ways of earning a living that will keep them out of the forest.

"Some of these forest concessions can be up to 70,000 hectares in size, so the guards will need to be able to communicate with each other. We're hoping other countries will help us to equip them.

"This is in the context of Cameroon itself, of course. But I am also speaking in a wider context, about the need to fight the bushmeat trade across west and central Africa.

Looking for action

"And I'll be asking Mr Thomas for his help in stamping it out in the UK. But the best way to tackle it is to fight it at source, and keep the animals in the forest."

Adam Matthews, the Bushmeat Campaign's director, is hoping Mr Thomas will spell out how the UK Department for International Development plans to implement the conclusions of a recent study it carried out on the links between wildlife and poverty.

He said: "Now that African governments have recognised that bushmeat is a priority the international community must act, act now, and act quickly to make funding available to address the bushmeat crisis."

Dead gorilla family   Television Trust for the Environment
Killed to be eaten
Mr Matthews told BBC News Online: "That study said 150 million people - one in eight of the world's poor - depend on wildlife for both protein and income.

"The report's recommendations were excellent, but we have yet to see any move towards carrying them out. I hope the UK will incorporate wildlife into its poverty strategies."

Some zoologists believe the bushmeat trade is so important to people's survival that it would be better to try to control it than to stamp it out.

They say it may be possible to tell when large species like apes are reaching a dangerous point by seeing when smaller animals like cane rats enter the market.

The smaller species tend to do so just before the flagship animals reach crisis point, and this could serve as a warning mechanism.

Pygmies' bushmeat trade woe
02 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Bushmeat ban 'would be wrong'
08 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
Ape alarm in West Africa
17 Sep 02  |  Africa
The cost of bushmeat
04 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature

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