Bushmeat, wildmeat, or game meat is meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds hunted for food in tropical forests.[1] Commercial harvesting and the trade of wildlife is considered a threat to biodiversity.[2][3]

Bushmeat also provides a route for a number of serious tropical diseases to spread to humans from their animal hosts, such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola.[4][5] Bushmeat is used for sustenance in remote areas, while in major towns and cities in bushmeat eating societies it is treated as a delicacy.[6]

Varanus bitatawa stew being prepared by Agta tribesmen - ZooKeys-266-001-g071
The lizard Varanus bitatawa is a common food for indigenous people in parts of the Philippines.


Today the term bushmeat is commonly used for meat of terrestrial wild or feral mammals, killed for sustenance or commercial purposes throughout the humid tropics of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. In West Africa (primarily Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria), Achatina achatina, a giant African snail, is also gathered, sold, eaten, and monitored as part of the bushmeat trade.[7][8][9] To reflect the global nature of hunting of wild animals, Resolution 2.64 of the IUCN General Assembly in Amman in October 2000 referred to wild meat rather than bushmeat. A more worldwide term for terrestrial wild animals is game. The term bushmeat crisis is sometimes used to describe unsustainable hunting of often endangered wild mammals in West and Central Africa and the humid tropics, depending on interpretation. African hunting predates recorded history; by the 21st century, it had become an international issue.[10]


The volume of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa was estimated at 1-5 million tonnes per year at the turn of the century.[11] According to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2014, approximately 5 million tonnes were still being consumed per year in the Congo Basin.[6]

For the people of this region, bushmeat represents a primary source of animal protein in the diet, making it a significant commercial industry. According to a 1994 study in Gabon, annual sales were estimated at US$50 million. The study found that bushmeat accounted for more than half of meat sold in local markets, with primates representing 20% of the total bushmeat.[12]


Hunted Silky Sifakas
Endangered species, including lemurs from Madagascar and great apes are killed for bushmeat despite this being illegal. Pictured: Two men with weapons and their prey arranged on display.
Bushmeat - Buschfleisch Ghana
Bushmeat is often smoked prior to consumption.

Logging penetration of forests

Logging concessions operated by companies in African forests have been closely linked to the bushmeat trade. Because they provide roads, trucks and other access to remote forests, they are the primary means for the transportation of hunters and meat between forests and urban centres. Some, including the Congolaise Industrielle du Bois (CIB) in the Republic of Congo, have partnered with governments and international conservation organizations to regulate the bushmeat trade within the concessions where they operate. Numerous solutions are needed; because each country has different circumstances, traditions and laws, no one solution will work in every location.[13]


In the case of Ghana, international over-exploitation of African fishing grounds has increased demand for bushmeat. Both EU-subsidized fleets and local commercial fleets have depleted fish stocks, leaving local people to supplement their diets with animals hunted from nature reserves. Over 30 years of data link sharp declines in both mammal populations and the biomass of 41 wildlife species with a decreased supply of fish.[14]

Public preference

In the case of Liberia in West Africa, bushmeat is eaten widely and is considered a delicacy.[15] A 2004 public opinion survey found that bushmeat ranked second behind fish among residents of the capital Monrovia as a preferred source of protein.[15] Of households where bushmeat was served, 80% of residents said they cooked it "once in a while", while 13% cooked it once a week and 7% cooked bushmeat daily.[15] The survey was conducted during the last civil war, and bushmeat consumption is now believed to be far higher.[15]

There has been extensive literature on the topic of bushmeat, related to field anthropology, and the process of ethnology has been repeated in many different regions to ensure accuracy and precision.[16][17]

Role in spread of diseases

The transmission of highly variable retrovirus chains causes zoonotic diseases. Outbreaks of the Ebola virus in the Congo Basin and in Gabon in the 1990s have been associated with the butchering of apes and consumption of their meat.[18] Bushmeat hunters in Central Africa infected with the human T-lymphotropic virus were closely exposed to wild primates.[19]


Results of research on wild chimpanzees in Cameroon indicate that they are naturally infected with the simian foamy virus and constitute a reservoir of HIV-1, a precursor of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans.[20] There are several distinct strains of HIV, indicating that this cross-species transfer has occurred several times.[21] Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) which is present in modern day chimpanzees, is reportedly derived from older strains of the virus present in the Red Capped Mangabey and Greater Spot-nosed Monkey.[22] It is likely that HIV was initially transferred to humans after having come into contact with infected bushmeat.[23][22]


The Ebola virus, for which the primary host is suspected to be fruit bats, has been linked to bushmeat. Between the first recorded outbreak in 1976 and the largest in 2014, the virus has transferred from animals to humans only 30 times, despite large numbers of bats being killed and sold each year.[6] Bats drop partially eaten fruits and pulp, then land mammals such as gorillas and duikers feed on these fallen fruits. This chain of events forms a possible indirect means of transmission from the natural host to animal populations.[24]

Although primates and other species may be intermediates, evidence suggests people primarily contract the virus from bats. Since most people buy smoked bushmeat, hunters and people preparing the food have the highest risk of infection. Hunters usually shoot, net, scavenge or catapult their prey, and butcher the bats without gloves, getting bites or scratches and coming in contact with their blood.[6][25]

In 2014, the suspected index case for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a two-year-old child in Guéckédou in south-eastern Guinea, who was the child of a family that hunted two species of fruit bat,[6] Hypsignathus monstrosus and Epomops franqueti.[26] Some researchers suggested the case was caused by zoonotic transmission through the child playing with an insectivorous bat from a colony of Angolan free-tailed bats near the village.[27][28]

Despite health organisations warning about risks of bushmeat, surveys pre-dating the 2014 outbreak indicate that people who eat bushmeat are usually unaware of the risks and view it as healthy food. Because of bushmeat's role as a protein source in Western Africa, it is traditionally associated with good nutrition, and efforts to outlaw the sale and consumption of bushmeat have been impossible to enforce and have met with suspicion from rural communities.[29] In one study in Ghana, none of the bushmeat hunters knew about Ghana's hunting laws, suggesting that bans may not be enforceable.[25] The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that between 30 and 80 percent of protein intake in rural households in Central Africa comes from wild meat.[30] However, as human populations grow, the interactions between humans and wildlife will increase, making possible zoonotic transmission of diseases from animal hosts more likely.[6]

One major Nigerian newspaper published a report about the widespread view that eating dog meat was a healthy alternative to bush meat.[31] Dog meat was implicated in a June 2015 Liberian outbreak of Ebola, where three villagers who had tested positive for the disease had shared a meal of dog meat.[32]

One study conducted in Liberia during the recent Ebola crisis showed that socio-economic conditions impacted bushmeat consumption. During the crisis, there was a decrease in bushmeat consumption and daily meal frequency. In addition, preferences for bushmeat species stayed the same.[33]

Other diseases

Animals used as bushmeat may also carry other diseases such as smallpox, chicken pox, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, rabies, yellow fever and yaws.[34] African squirrels (Heliosciurus, Funisciurus) have been implicated as reservoirs of the monkeypox virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[35] The bubonic plague bacteria can transfer to humans when handling or eating North American prairie dogs.[36]

In many instances, contracting the diseases mentioned above often occurs due to the cutting of the meat, when animal blood and other fluids may touch the people cutting it, thereby infecting them. Another path of infection is that some of the meat may not be completely cooked. This often occurs due to the type of cooking method: hanging the meat over an open fire.[37] Improper preparation of any infected animal may be fatal.[38]

Impact upon animal species

Pygmy hippos are among the species illegally hunted for food in Liberia.[39] The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild.[40]

The consumption of bushmeat threatens a wide range of species, including species that are endangered and threatened with extinction. For example, a range of endangered species are hunted for bushmeat in Liberia.[39]

Species hunted for food in Liberia include elephants, pygmy hippopotamus, chimpanzees, duikers, and other monkeys.[39] Forest rangers in Liberia say that bushmeat poachers will kill any forest animal they encounter.[39]

Effect on great apes

Gorilla gorilla09
A gorilla in the DR Congo, 2008. The use of buckshot has helped bushmeat hunters target gorillas by allowing them to more easily kill the dominant male silverback.

The great apes of Central and West Africa—gorillas and chimpanzees—are nearly ubiquitously sold as bushmeat throughout the region, and a study from 1995 suggests that the off-take is unsustainable.[12] With the exception of a 1995 report from Cameroon, where gorillas were considered a target species for hunters, Central and West African hunters do not appear to target them.[41] Historically, poachers have favored hunting chimpanzees because they flee when one is shot. Gorillas, however, only became easy targets when buckshot ammunition became available, allowing the hunters to more easily kill the dominant male silverback whose role it is to defend his troop.[12]

Generally, great apes constitute a minor portion of the bushmeat trade. Although a 1996 study indicated that approximately 1.94% of animal carcasses sold and consumed in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo belonged to great apes, it accounted for 2.23% of the biomass of the meat sold, which is significant for ape populations relative to their ecosystem. Furthermore, these numbers may not have accurately represented the extent of the problem for the following reasons:[41]

  1. Vendors may not have admitted the sale of great ape meat because it is illegal;
  2. The carcasses are large, and may therefore have been consumed locally rather than been transported to large markets;
  3. Great ape hunting usually peaks when new forest areas are made accessible as they are unwary when unfamiliar with humans, but later hunting declines;
  4. It is nearly impossible to visually distinguish the meat source when it has been smoked;
  5. Secondary effects, such as unintended deaths from traps, are not represented in market data.

During the time interval between a study from 1981 to 1983 and another study between 1998–2002 in Gabon, ape population density fell 56%, despite the country retaining nearly 80% of its original forest cover.[42] This decline was primarily associated with the transformation of the bushmeat trade from subsistence level to unregulated, commercial hunting, facilitated by transportation infrastructure intended for logging purposes.[12][42] Unsustainable hunting practices along with habitat loss makes the extinction of these endangered primates more likely.[43]

See also

Other wildlife consumption:


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External links

African vulture trade

The African vulture trade involves the poaching, trafficking, and illegal sale of vultures and vulture parts for bushmeat and for belief use, like traditional medicines, in Sub-Saharan Africa. This illegal trade of vultures and vulture parts is contributing to a population crisis on the continent. In 2017, the IUCN Red List categorized seven of Africa's 11 vulture species as globally endangered or critically endangered. Recent research suggests that 90% of vulture species declines in Africa may be due to a combination of poisoning and illegal wildlife trade for medicinal use and/or bushmeat. All trade of African vultures is illegal, as these birds are protected by international laws.African vulture trade falls under the broader spectrum of wildlife trade, with both national and international trade occurring. Vultures are sometimes specifically targeted for bushmeat consumption or traditional belief use. Poachers also target vultures, even when they are not harvesting the vultures for bushmeat or belief use purposes. Since vultures circle over carcasses, they can be used as sentinels, alerting wildlife authorities of poaching events. Ivory poachers and rhino horn poachers have thus targeted vultures to reduce the likelihood of being caught.

Armillifer armillatus

Armillifer armillatus is a species of the genus Armillifer occurring in tropical Africa. Its typical definitive hosts are pythons, such as the reticulated python, while rodents are presumed to act as intermediate hosts. Humans may become accidentally infected by the eggs particularly if consuming (or otherwise contacting) infected snakes. Ingested eggs develop into nymphs that invade different visceral organs causing a disease called porocephalosis. Most human infections are asymptomatic, some are debilitating, or rarely even lethal.Most of the pythons sold for human consumption at the rural bushmeat markets in the DR Congo host Armillifer armillatus.

Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a significant transnational issue. In the DRC, forests are cleared for agricultural purposes by utilizing slash and burn techniques.Aside from the visible depletion of resources, deforestation of the DRC also leads to a lost habit for the mountain gorilla among other rare species like the okapi, resulting in decreased biodiversity, soil erosion, and contribute to climate change.

Since 1990, the rate of deforestation in the DRC has remained constant at 0.20%, which equates to the loss of 311,000 hectares, or roughly 1,200 square miles, annually. This amounts to destroying forests the size of Delaware every two years. The fact that the rate of deforestation has remained constant over the last twenty years is misleading as one might believe that government or non-government organizations (NGO) interventions have been responsible for the decline, but reports indicate otherwise. Three reasons have been postulated as to why deforestation rates have remained relatively low: 1) the road network within the country has been gradually in decline making access to more remote areas more difficult, 2) political and regulatory changes have disincentivized investment in the country, and 3) agriculture has expanded outside of forest areas.Additionally, while the rates remain constant, wood removal (measured in cubic meters) continues to dramatically increase annually. Industrialized roundwood has increased from 3.05 million cubic meters in 1990 to 4.45 million cubic meters in 2010; fuelwood has increased from 44.2 million cubic meters to 75.44 million cubic meters annually in that same time.The rainforest in the Congo Basin is the largest rainforest in Africa and second only to the Amazon Basin in size, with 300 million hectare compared to the 800 million hectares in the Amazon. Roughly fifty percent (154 million hectare) of the remaining rainforest in the Congo Basin lies within the boundaries of the DRC.The DRC is one of the most Flora rich countries on the continent. It is home for more than 10,000 types of plants, 600 timber species, as well as 1,000 bird species, 280 reptile species, and 400 mammal species, including the forest elephant, gorilla, forest buffalo, bongo, and okapi. Many of these wildlife species are threatened animals such as large lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. The deforeastation destroys the biological diversity in the Congo Basin forest. Specifically, 60 percent of the forest elephant population drops due to the loss of shelter caused by illegal logging.


A duiker is a small to medium-sized brown antelope native to sub-Saharan Africa, found in heavily wooded areas. The 22 extant species, including three sometimes considered to be subspecies of the other species, form the subfamily Cephalophinae.

Environmental issues in Liberia

Environmental issues in Liberia include the deforestation of tropical rainforest, the hunting of endangered species for bushmeat, the pollution of rivers and coastal waters from industrial run-off and raw sewage, and the burning and dumping of household waste.

Gray flying fox

The gray flying fox (Pteropus griseus) is a species of flying fox in the family Pteropodidae. It is found in Indonesia, but not in the Philippines, despite occasional reference to such. Very little is known about this species. It probably roosts individually or in small groups. It was listed on appendix II of CITES, and is classified as "Data Deficient" by the IUCN. This species has been decimated by hunting for bushmeat in Indonesia.

History of HIV/AIDS

AIDS is caused by a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which originated in non-human primates in Central and West Africa. While various sub-groups of the virus acquired human infectivity at different times, the global pandemic had its origins in the emergence of one specific strain – HIV-1 subgroup M – in Léopoldville in the Belgian Congo (now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the 1920s.There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2.

HIV-1 is more virulent, is more easily transmitted and is the cause of the vast majority of HIV infections globally. The pandemic strain of HIV-1 is closely related to a virus found in chimpanzees of the subspecies Pan troglodytes troglodytes, which live in the forests of the Central African nations of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo (or Congo-Brazzaville), and Central African Republic.

HIV-2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa, along with its closest relative, a virus of the sooty mangabey (Cercocebus atys atys), an Old World monkey inhabiting southern Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and western Ivory Coast.

Laotian giant flying squirrel

The Laotian giant flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus laoensis) is an arboreal, flying squirrel endemic to Laos. It was the second described member in the genus Biswamoyopterus, after being first collected in September 2012 by scientists researching the animal corpses in the semi-legal Thongnami bushmeat market, Ban Thongnami, Pakkading District, Bolikhamxai Province.

Liberian cuisine

Liberian cuisine has been influenced by contact, trade and colonization from the United States, especially foods from the American South (Southern food), interwoven with traditional West African foods. The diet is centered on the consumption of rice and other starches, tropical fruits, vegetables, and local fish and meat. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the United States that is unique in West Africa.

Lyle's flying fox

Lyle's flying fox (Pteropus lylei) is a species of flying fox in the family Pteropodidae. It is found in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, with an outlying population in Yunnan, China. It faces persecution from farmers and it is killed for bushmeat in parts of its range. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being "vulnerable".

Madagascan fruit bat

The Madagascan fruit bat (Eidolon dupreanum) is a species of bat in the family Pteropodidae. It is endemic to Madagascar and is listed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN because it is hunted as bushmeat.

Monkey meat

Monkey meat is the flesh and other edible parts derived from monkeys. Human consumption of monkey meat has been historically recorded in numerous parts of the world, including multiple Asian and African nations. Monkey meat consumption has been reported in parts of Europe and the Americas as well.

Old World vulture

Old World vultures are vultures that are found in the Old World, i.e. the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, and which belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.

Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not share that group's good sense of smell. The similarities between the two groups of vultures are due to convergent evolution rather than a close relationship. They were widespread in both the Old World and North America, during the Neogene.

Old World vultures are probably a polyphyletic group within Accipitridae, with palm-nut vulture, Egyptian vulture and Bearded vulture separate from the others. Most authorities refer to two major clades: Gypaetinae and Aegypiinae (Aegypius, Gyps, Sarcogyps, Torgos, Trigonoceps and possibly Necrosyrtes). The former seem to be nested with Perninae hawks, while the latter are closely related and possibly even synonymous with Aquilinae. Within Aegypiinae, Torgos, Aegypius, Sarcogyps and Trigonoceps are particularly closely related and possibly within the same genus.Both Old World and New World vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a semi-bald head, sometimes without feathers or with simple down. Historically, it was thought that this was due to feeding habits, as feathers would be glued with decaying flesh and blood. However, more recent studies have shown that it is actually a thermoregulatory adaptation to avoid facial overheating; the presence or absence of complex feathers seems to matter little in feeding habits, as some vultures are quite raptorial.

Pangolin trade

The pangolin trade is the illegal poaching, trafficking, and sale of pangolins, parts of pangolins, or pangolin-derived products. Pangolins are believed to be the world's most trafficked mammal, other than humans, accounting for as much as 20% of all illegal wildlife trade. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than a million pangolins were poached in the decade prior to 2014.Bushmeat is a multi-billion dollar industry. This practice threatens tropical vertebrates throughout Africa and Asia. Bushmeat is either directly consumed or traded globally/locally.The animals are trafficked mainly for their scales, which are believed to treat a variety of health conditions in traditional Chinese medicine, and as a luxury food in Vietnam and China. Trafficking of the pangolin is also done for medical and spiritual belief use in Africa. The medical and spiritual uses depend on the regions that they are used in and the cultural values that the region holds.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the international wildlife trade, has placed restrictions on the pangolin market since 1975, and in 2016, it added all eight pangolin species to its Appendix I, reserved for the strictest prohibitions on animals threatened with extinction. They are also listed on the IUCN Red List, all with decreasing populations and designations ranging from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.

Red-eared guenon

The red-eared guenon, red-eared monkey, or russet-eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis) is a species of primate in the family Cercopithecidae. It is found in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss, illegal bushmeat hunting and pet trade.

Roloway monkey

The roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway) is an endangered species of Old World monkey endemic to tropical West Africa. It was previously considered a subspecies of the Diana monkey (C. diana). It is classified as Endangered due to habitat loss and continued hunting for the bushmeat trade.

The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates

The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates is a list of highly endangered primate species selected and published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group (IUCN/SSC PSG), the International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI). The 2012–2014 list added the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF) to the list of publishers. The IUCN/SSC PSG worked with CI to start the list in 2000, but in 2002, during the 19th Congress of the International Primatological Society, primatologists reviewed and debated the list, resulting in the 2002–2004 revision and the endorsement of the IPS. The publication has since been a joint project between the three conservation organizations and has been revised every two years following the biannual Congress of the IPS. Starting with the 2004–2006 report, the title changed to "Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates". That same year, the list began to provide information about each species, including their conservation status and the threats they face in the wild. The species text is written in collaboration with experts from the field, with 60 people contributing to the 2006–2008 report and 85 people contributing to the 2008–2010 report. The 2004–2006 and 2006–2008 reports were published in the IUCN/SSC PSG journal Primate Conservation, while the 2008–2010 and 2010-2012 report were published as independent publications by all three contributing organizations.The 25 species on the 2012–2014 list are distributed between 16 countries. The countries with the most species on the list are Madagascar (six species), Vietnam (five species), and Indonesia (three species). The list is broken into four distinct regions: the island of Madagascar, the continent of Africa, the continent of Asia including the islands of Indonesia, and the Neotropics (Central and South America). Five species have been on all seven published lists: the silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus), Delacour's langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), golden-headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus poliocephalus), grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea), and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus).The purpose of the list, according to Russell Mittermeier, the president of CI, is "to highlight those [primate species] that are most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately needed conservation measures." Species are selected for the list based on two primary reasons: extremely small population sizes and very rapid drops in numbers. These reasons are heavily influenced by habitat loss and hunting, the two greatest threats primates face. More specifically, threats listed in the report include deforestation due to slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing for pasture or farmland, charcoal production, firewood production, illegal logging, selective logging, mining, land development, and cash crop production; forest fragmentation; small population sizes; live capture for the exotic pet trade; and hunting for bushmeat and traditional medicine.

Ugandan cuisine

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with English, Arab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences.

Most tribes in Uganda have their own speciality dish or delicacy. Many dishes include various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas and other tropical fruits. Chicken, pork, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas, and mostly eaten in the form of bushmeat. Nyama is the Swahili word for "meat".

Wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo includes its fauna and flora.

The wildlife of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has an extremely large biodiversity and houses many flora and fauna in seasonally flooded forests and grasslands. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also contains rainforest and holds five national parks which are home to many species of Gorilla, big cats, and birds. There are a lot of issues with the DRC and the hunting of “Bushmeat”. This overhunting of wild animals makes resources scarce and reduces the population of endangered and regular animals, especially the Chimpanzee.

Extant ape species
Study of apes
Legal and social status
See also
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