Tag Archives: Bushmeat

From Science to Action: Taking DNA Barcoding to Battle Against the Bushmeat

From Science to Action: Taking DNA Barcoding to Battle Against the Bushmeat Crisis
Sarah Burgess-Herbert, Iregi Mwenja, Vincent Opyene

“Speed Presentation” given 7 July 2010
24th Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
ABSTRACT
Consequences of the unsustainable and illegal commercial trade in wildlife species known as the bushmeat trade include biodiversity loss, impoverishment of rural communities, compromised ecosystem services, and increased incidents of zoonotic diseases. A recent assessment of wildlife laws and governance in East Africa revealed that successful prosecutions of illegal hunting are very rare, that a lack of forensic evidence in wildlife cases leads to their high failure rate, and that most conservation capacity building projects focus limited attention on the prosecution stage of law enforcement. Meanwhile, proof-of-concept testing in a genetics ‘field lab’ in Cameroon, and in labs in the United States, has shown that a tool known as DNA barcoding can identify to species unrecognizable samples of fresh, dried, and smoked bushmeat. Since the identification of animal products can provide crucial forensic evidence, DNA barcoding has the potential to transform the legal battleground in the prosecution of bushmeat cases. For this to happen in East Africa, we conclude that capacity building conservation projects need to focus more heavily on the prosecution of wildlife crimes, such as through the development of government-sanctioned forensic laboratory facilities with at least one central facility equipped to deal with DNA sequencing, and through technical and awareness training for lab technicians, law enforcement partners, wildlife managers, prosecutors, and magistrates.

A bushmeat poacher in Tsavo

A bushmeat poacher arrested with dik dik meat. In the absence of science, the court is usually unable to determine whether this is bushmeat or not especially if the defendant claims it is meat from domestic animals.

Who is a poacher? A new perspective

Pieter Kat on 29th April 2010 commented on Johan Knols post- When Poaching is The Only Way

The comment is slightly modified to suit Kenyan audience

If you are of European descent, it is likely that a distant ancestor of yours was a poacher. This might surprise you, but it is also important to realize that those of us alive today are only here because we are linked to a long line of people who did what they could to feed their families. For many hundreds of years in England for example, the remaining wildlife was the property of the aristocracy with big estates. Poor, and often starving people lived on the boundaries of such estates, and would occasionally sally forth to take a rabbit, a deer, or maybe a salmon from the river. Not ever a swan, as those all belonged to the King (now to the Queen – thanks to a statute dating from 1186 (reaffirmed by the Act of Swans of 1482 and the Wild Creatures and Forest Law Act of 1971). The estates would employ gamekeepers to keep your ancestors out, and if they were caught, the local Sheriff would put them in the cells.

People in Africa have always supplemented their diet with game. Now, in all countries, wildlife (except that on game ranches) belongs to the State, and people adding an impala to their pot are still called poachers. The gamekeepers have now grown into Wildlife Departments, and the aristocratic estates are now National Parks. The poor have remained the same.

Kenyans, with their usual sense of humour despite adverse conditions, have long called wildlife “Government cattle”. It is not unusual in Kenya to see cows sharing their grazing with zebras, gazelles, and wildebeest on ranches. The former are owned by individuals, and someone trying to feed a family better not select a cow – laws in place are strict and justice is swift. But a gazelle does not belong to your neighbours, instead to a fuzzy entity that sits somewhere far away in a big city that you have probably never been to and probably would not spend money to go to. So go for the gazelle, and if the government comes to inspect your pot you could say it was a goat.

We are all meant to believe that poaching is a big problem in Africa. But there is poaching and then there is poaching. On the one hand, there is large-scale commercial poaching for an overseas market. Rhino horns and elephant tusks can be immediately identified as forming a basis for this trade. We have all been informed by now that the gamekeepers and government leaders have been complicit in such activities. Then, there is poaching for the commercial market. We have all been informed by now that the bush meat trade is destroying wildlife populations at a great rate, but that such trade is often assisted by logging companies that provide the rainforest roads and the trucks to bring meat to market. Then there is poaching to sustain the stomachs of various rebel armies competing for territory. We have all been informed of the Lord’s Resistance Army previously in Uganda and now shifted a bit to the west – you think they rely on manna from heaven to keep their bellies full? And finally, there is poor Wanjiku, only wanting a dik dik for her pot every now and then, as her family is only used to eating meat infrequently.

So who are the really bad guys in terms of poaching? It seems clear the biggest poaching problems need to be addressed first in terms of making an impact. Wanjiku is way down the line, and does not even own a gun. Africa is a very big continent but in the still small rural communities, everyone knows what is going on. Everyone in the local communities in Europe knew that your great, great, great Grandfather was a bit of a poacher, and your family survived because that man was able to outwit the gamekeeper. Don’t focus on Wanjiku, but do focus anti-poaching on the fat cats, the companies, the armies. But Wanjiku is easier to catch isn’t she?

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Aids warning over bushmeat trade

BBC NEWS
Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK

A study of African hunters has shown that a virus similar to HIV has passed from apes to humans from bushmeat of the kind that is being sold illegally in the UK.

A leading scientist has told the File On 4 programme that the virus was probably passed on to tribesmen via body fluids when the animals were slaughtered and butchered.

Assistant Professor Nathan Wolfe, who tested more than 1,000 hunters for Johns Hopkins University, US, found a retrovirus from the same family as HIV in a number of them.

This is most likely the mechanism by which HIV emerged into the human population

Nathan Wolfe, Johns Hopkins University
“This is the area of the world where HIV came from, and this is most likely the mechanism by which HIV emerged into the human population,” he said.  Read more

Bushmeat education workshop begins in Tsavo

Tomorrow Wednesday 27th 2010, I and a team of highly experienced facilitators from Kenya and the USA will be conducting an educators’ training workshop in Tsavo West National Park.  The workshop which is funded by the USFWS Wildlife Without Borders Africa Program aims at training a selected group of environmental educators working in the western part of the Tsavo ecosystem. The officers are coming from Tsavo West National Park, Chyulu National Park, Taveta ex-poacher project and a Wildlife Clubs patron.

However, the demand for bushmeat education in the region, which is notorious for bushmeat poaching was far much higher than we could meet and we have received requests from Education Officers working in the area for inclusion in the training! And to prove how serious they are, the Officers accepted to participate in the training without getting any financial support from our side.

This workshop is the first of its kind to specifically focus on building the capacity of educators in bushmeat education. By training and equipping the educators on the ground with materials on bushmeat education we are hoping that the knowledge, skills and materials that we have will be used in Tsavo ecosystem for a long time rather than going to the ground ourselves to implement a one off education project that may not be sustainable.

The specific objectives of training these officers are;

1.      To increase their knowledge on the bushmeat crisis

2.      To build their skills on bushmeat education

3.      To provide them with relevant education materials for their education work.

4.      To enhance linkages and collaboration in education in the region

5.      To develop new bushmeat education materials

6.      To build local and international partnership in education

Some of the education materials we are using in this training have been donated by Africa Environmental Film Foundation, Born free Foundation, INCEF, Project WILD and RARE. KWS Tsavo West National Park is providing the training facility and logistical support for the training and outreach. We are also getting technical support from AFEW Giraffe Center, Amara Conservation and ANAW. Big thanks to Melinda, Heather and Natalie for their technical support form the USA.

One in five mammals face extinction!

25% of Wild Mammal Species Face Extinction

Global Assessment Paints ‘Bleak Picture,’ Scientists Say, and Figure of Those at Risk Could Be Higher

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A13BARCELONA, Oct. 6 — At least a quarter of the world’s wild mammal species are at risk of extinction, according to a comprehensive global survey released here Monday.

The new assessment — which took 1,700 experts in 130 countries five years to complete — paints “a bleak picture,” leaders of the project wrote in a paper being published in the journal Science. The overview, made public at the quadrennial World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covers all 5,487 wild species identified since 1500. It is the most thorough tally of land and marine mammals since 1996.

“Mammals are definitely declining, and the driving factors are habitat destruction and over-harvesting,” said Jan Schipper, the paper’s lead writer and the IUCN’s global mammals assessment coordinator. The researchers concluded that 25 percent of the mammal species for which they had sufficient data are threatened with extinction, but Schipper added that the figure could be as high as 36 percent because information on some species is so scarce.

Land and marine mammals face different threats, the scientists said, and large mammals are more vulnerable than small ones. For land species, habitat loss and hunting represent the greatest danger, while marine mammals are more threatened by unintentional killing by pollution, ship strikes and being caught in fishing nets.

While large species such as primates (including the Sumatran orangutan and red colobus monkeys in Africa) and ungulates (hoofed animals such as Africa’s Dama gazelle and the Malaysian tapir) may seem more physically imposing, the researchers wrote that these animals are more imperiled than smaller creatures such as rodents and bats because they “tend to have lower population densities, slower life histories, and larger home ranges, and are more likely to be hunted.”

Primates face some of the most intense pressures: According to the survey, 79 percent of primates in South and Southeast Asia are facing extinction.

Conservation International President Russell A. Mittermeier, one of the paper’s writers and a primate specialist, said animals in the region are being hit with “a triple whammy.”

“It’s not that surprising, given the high population pressures, the level of habitat destruction, and the fairly extreme hunting of primates for food and medicinal purposes,” he said in an interview. He added that some areas in Vietnam and Cambodia are facing “an empty forest syndrome,” as even once-populous species such as the crab-eating macaque, or temple monkey, are “actually getting vacuumed out of some areas where it was common.”

In some cases, the scientists have a precise sense of how imperiled a species has become: There are 19 Hainan gibbons left in the wild on the island off China’s southeast coast, Mittermeier said, which actually counts as progress because there used to be just a dozen.

With others, including the beaked whale and the jaguar, researchers have a much vaguer idea of their numbers despite technological advances — such as satellite and radio tagging, camera tracking and satellite-based GPS (global positioning system) mapping. The authors of the assessment wrote that most land mammals occupy “areas smaller than the United Kingdom,” while “the range of most marine mammals is smaller than one-fifth of the Indian Ocean.”

The report on mammals came on the same day that the IUCN updated its “Red List” — a separate periodic survey of nearly 45,000 species of plants and animals — and concluded that 32 percent are threatened with extinction. Its scientists added 20 of the world’s 161 species of grouper to the list of those at risk of extinction, along with several tarantula species.

Jonathan Baillie, who directs conservation programs at the Zoological Society of London, said: “It’s a continual decline in all cases.”

Not all of the news was grim yesterday: IUCN officials said that the La Palma giant lizard, believed to be extinct for 500 years, was rediscovered last year in the Canary Islands and is now considered critically endangered.

The writers of the mammals assessment said the observed declines are not inevitable. “At least 5 percent of currently threatened species have stable or increasing populations,” they wrote, “which indicates that they are recovering from past threats.”

Said Mittermeier: “It comes down to protecting habitats effectively, through protected areas, and preventing hunting and other forms of exploitation.” As one example of how conservation can be effective, he noted that in areas where scientific researchers work, animals stand a much better chance of surviving. “Where you have a research presence, it’s as good or better than a guard force,” he said.

Schipper offered the model of the U.S. effort to bring back the black-footed ferret, which was essentially extinct on the North American prairie as of 1996. “Now it’s endangered, which, in this case, is a huge improvement,” he said. “When governments and scientists commit resources to a project, many species can be recovered.”

Monday’s reports come as researchers have been documenting effects of human-generated greenhouse gases. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found that ocean acidification spurred by carbon emissions will cause sound to travel farther underwater, because increasingly acidic seawater absorbs less low- and mid-frequency sound.

By 2050, the researchers predicted, sounds could travel as much as 70 percent farther in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and other areas, which may improve marine mammals’ ability to communicate but also increase background noise, which could prove disorienting.

“We understand the chemistry of the ocean is changing. The biological implications of that we really don’t know,” said ocean chemist Keith Hester, the lead writer. “The magnitude to which sound absorption will change, based mainly on human contribution, is really astounding.”