Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 12:19 UK

Is Africa's wildlife being eaten to extinction?

Mark Jones
Mark Jones

The rapid growth in the global demand for bushmeat is leaving many African species facing the possibility of being eaten out of existence, says Mark Jones. In this week's Green Room, he calls for western nations to do more to tackle the problem of illegal imports of bushmeat.

Primate bushmeat (Image: Anne-Lise Chaber)
The increasing value of bushmeat has attracted criminal syndicates, with sophisticated and efficient logistical capabilities

We've all heard how the illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other high value products is threatening Africa's wildlife.

However, the impact of these products is dwarfed by the trade in bushmeat, defined as meat from Africa's wild animals traded for human consumption.

According to the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, the hunting of and trade in bushmeat represents "the most significant immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Africa".

Traditionally, bushmeat hunting was a subsistence activity.

It is now a multi-billion dollar international trade involving hundreds of species, from forest herbivores such as duikers and other antelopes to wild pigs, rodents, elephants and primates.

The exponential increase in the trade over recent years is being driven by demand from the exploding and ever more urbanised human population in Africa, and the increasing