Bizarre decision by the Tanzanian government to allow bush meat trade


(Posted 14th March 2020)

(Effects of bush meat trade while China bans it following the Corona Virus outbreak)

Poaching is widespread around the Serengeti National Park, especially on the western side where human population is dense. It’s done primarily to supply bushmeat, a traditional source of protein for local people.

The bushmeat trade is enormous and growing: A 2014 study estimated an astounding offtake of 97,000-140,000 wildebeest per year. Tens of thousands of other animals are consumed as well. The rise of organized poaching gangs combined with a doubling of human population around the Serengeti by mid-century will result in an unsustainable loss of wildlife.

The impact of the bushmeat trade is not just on wildlife.

It’s a growing public health threat.

As the new coronavirus again demonstrates, consumption of wildlife brings disease risks. Chinese wildlife markets are a breeding ground for pathogens that can jump from animals to humans. SARS came from civet cats. The MERS virus is thought to have been transmitted from camels in the Middle East. HIV and Ebola, possibly even malaria, from African primates. Read more. In fact, diseases transmitted from animals to humans represented 60 percent of all emerging infection disease events (EIDs) between 1940 and 2004. Source: Nature.

According to a recent (December 2019) study around the Serengeti,

“People who eat wildebeests, warthogs and other wild African animals may be at risk for contracting potentially life-threatening diseases, according to an international team of researchers. The team analyzed samples of bushmeat — meat derived from wildlife — in the Western Serengeti in Tanzania and identified several groups of bacteria, many of which contain the species that cause diseases such as anthrax, brucellosis and Q fever.”

These emerging diseases not only affect local people,

they now spread far and wide with alarming speed.

This shows why it’s so important to work with (not against) local communities, help reduce human population growth around the Serengeti, and expand anti-poaching enforcement.

As was previously mentioned, the poaching and consumption of wildlife (bushmeat) poses a serious threat to the Serengeti ecosystem and those living around it. The quantity of wildlife poached for human consumption is huge: estimated between 97,796–140,615 wildebeest, plus tens of thousands of other animals, each year. (See our previous report)

Massive wildlife consumption by millions of people is a living laboratory for new disease. As in China, the risk of pathogens emerging in such an environment should be a concern to all.

Unfortunately, since our last report, the government of Tanzania has legalized the selling of wildlife meat in licensed butcheries.

This happened even as China closed its wildlife markets. Recent studies around the Serengeti National Park have identified pathogens in wildlife that pose a clear and present danger to humans. Health conditions and medical care in communities around the Serengeti are poor. Even a modest outbreak could not be easily identified or contained.

This also represents a threat to the economy.

Tourism to East Africa is subject to the vicissitudes of tourism demand, including perceived risk from disease. An outbreak in East Africa will dramatically impact the travel industry, rippling through the economy, affecting a million or more jobs and with the arrival of #COVID19 in Kenya has that scenario just become very real.

Quo Vadis Tanzania?


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