Page last updated at 05:05 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 06:05 UK

African hunting ban 'disastrous'

By Matt McGrath
BBC environmental reporter

Warthog meat being cooked in Nigeria
Bush meat is consumed in many parts of Africa

A complete ban on hunting wild animals for their meat would be a disaster for people living in Central Africa, researchers say.

The practice needs to be legalised, regulated and controlled, argues a report from the Centre for International Forestry Research.

Otherwise, some large wildlife species, such as elephants and gorillas, will be extinct within 50 years, it says.

Bush meat is a key part of the diet for many in Central Africa.

In some areas it provides 80% of the protein and fat consumed. But these nutritional benefits come at a high price.

Local consumption

Researchers estimate that more than a million tonnes of bush meat is killed every year.

If large mammals are hunted to extinction, this will pose a serious threat to food security for millions of people, the report warns.

"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 in less than 50 years," said Robert Nasi, one of the report's authors.

But the report argues it is important to distinguish between the rural poor, who hunt to survive, and those who engage in the activity purely as a commercial venture.

The report - Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis - says that many attempts to crack down on the hunting of bush meat are misguided and a blanket ban on sales of bush meat simply would not work.

The authors argue that only by giving rights to local hunters to decide on what they want to hunt will they be encouraged to adopt sustainable practices - such as hunting for fast reproducing species like rodents instead of larger mammals.

Consumption of bush meat in Europe and elsewhere is often blamed for driving up demand but this report points out that the most of it is consumed in local village areas.

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