Africa’s big­gest bush­meat mar­ket

An­gola is home to Africa's big­gest bush­meat mar­ket but is now ramp­ing up ef­forts to stop the il­le­gal trade, re­ports the BBC's Karen Allen from Luanda.

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

LUANDA — In a blue plas­tic bucket is a macabre sight — the head of a small gazelle stares straight ahead, as a woman chops meat from its limp body to the strains of a pop­u­lar song on ra­dio.

An­gola is not for the squea­mish. Bush­meat is ev­ery­day fare here. They call it “Carne de Zaza” in Por­tuguese.

Sci­en­tists like Steve Boyes of the Oka­vango Wilder­ness Project and the leader of a Na­tional Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety ex­pe­di­tionary team, mon­i­tor the trade.

“This is not about judge­ment, it is about con­ser­va­tion,” he says, as he re­veals that $6 will buy you a mon­key and $60 a fine cut of snake.

The con­sump­tion of bush­meat is a lin­ger­ing legacy of sur­vival and tra­di­tion, not a sign of blood­lust, among a pop­u­la­tion still badly bruised by an ugly civil war.

But old habits die hard. Dur­ing the war which stub­bornly per­sisted from 1975-2002, com­mu­ni­ties had lit­tle choice but to eat bush­meat, and a man I stum­ble across in the mar­ket speaks bluntly of his dis­taste for change.

“I had to eat bush­meat dur­ing the war years so I in­tend to con­tinue eat­ing it now… I’d even eat an ele­phant,” he boasts.

An­other woman told me that she prefers the taste of bush­meat to chicken, or other com­monly eaten an­i­mals.

Now An­gola has be­come a flour­ish­ing hub for con­tra­band from across the re­gion, with bil­lions of dol­lars net­ted glob­ally from what has been dubbed “en­vi­ron­men­tal crime”.

Syn­di­cates are op­er­at­ing on an in­dus­trial scale, and the UN and In­ter­pol warn that this il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity has now eclipsed arms smug­gling in scale.

So long as there is a mar­ket and laws are not en­forced, it seems, stamp­ing out this lu­cra­tive busi­ness will be hard.

The re­cently re­leased re­port on En­vi­ron­men­tal Crime - a joint ini­tia­tive from the UN En­vi­ron­ment pro­gramme (UNEP) and In­ter­pol — comes with a stark warn­ing.

Fail­ure to ad­dress wildlife crime now means sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals may not be reached.

So An­gola is try­ing to ramp up ef­forts to outwit the poach­ers, re­cruit hun­dreds of for­mer sol­diers to re-train as wildlife rangers, and prom­ise strate­gies to pro­mote con­ser­va­tion.

“We have a big push to man­age pro­tected ar­eas and cre­ate oth­ers for the ben­e­fit of our peo­ple,” said Abias Huongo, di­rec­tor of An­gola’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Bio­di­ver­sity.

“For us to sur­vive, other species need to sur­vive,” he says.

But the sale of the global prob­lem is stag­ger­ing.

The UN es­ti­mates that the value of en­vi­ron­men­tal crime has risen by 26% in two years and now stands at $258bn, only be­hind drugs, coun­ter­feited goods and hu­man traf­fick­ing in terms of crim­i­nal en­ter­prises.

An­gola hosts Africa’s big­gest ivory and bush­meat mar­ket.

It is a tran­sit point for much of the trade, with ivory smug­gled from across the bor­der in the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo.

A re­cent seizure of ele­phant tusks were dis­played in­con­gru­ously in the air­port lounge - tes­ti­mony to at least 11 ele­phants which fell prey to this spi­ralling crime.

Ivory traders face the threat of three years in jail or a hefty fine un­der An­golan law but in­sid­ers ad­mit not enough is be­ing done to en­force the rules.

The gov­ern­ment here has threat­ened to close down Ben­fica mar­ket in the cap­i­tal, Luanda, to co­in­cide with the launch of the re­port and UN En­vi­ron­ment Day. Yet it’s a mam­moth task. The fact that we were able to find il­le­gal bush­meat at a mar­ket just a few miles away from where UN dig­ni­taries met their An­golan coun­ter­parts in the prov­ince of Cuando-cubango, is tes­ti­mony to the vast scale of this il­licit global trade.

Just over a decade since the end of the civil war, in a part of the planet which has been locked away from much of the out­side world, new ter­ri­to­ries are now been opened up for ex­plo­ration.

But it’s a race against time, pit­ting con­ser­va­tion­ists against poach­ers.

A car­pet of thick African bush fed by wa­ters from four rivers make up the Oka­vango river sys­tem. It is a breath­tak­ing sight when viewed from the air, full of prom­ise but also fore­bod­ing.

It is one of the last re­main­ing pris­tine parts of the planet which of­fers the prospect of be­com­ing a new front for crim­i­nal gangs - or a gift to sci­ence and con­ser­va­tion.

That is why the pres­sure is on An­gola to take a lead in law en­force­ment, roll out ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns and pro­vide new job op­por­tu­ni­ties which di­vert com­mu­ni­ties away from wildlife crime.

The Oka­vango Wilder­ness Project has pro­posed a 178,000 sq km pro­tected area which would en­able ele­phants and other wildlife to roam freely with­out fear of be­ing hunted.

It opens up the prospect of cre­at­ing jobs in the eco-tourism sec­tor. It is an at­trac­tive prospect for a coun­try like An­gola that is try­ing to di­ver­sify away from oil.

But con­ser­va­tion is labour in­ten­sive and with­out a ma­jor scal­ing up of global ef­fort and fund­ing, the poach­ers are likely to con­tinue to have the up­per hand.

And the fund­ing may need to be raised “to the tune of $800 per sq km per year”, says Paul Fun­ston of the Pan­thera con­ser­va­tion group.

It seems that the world now faces a crit­i­cal choice — share the bur­den and costs of African con­ser­va­tion ef­fort, or look the other way.

An­gola has be­come a flour­ish­ing hub for con­tra­band from across the re­gion, with bil­lions of dol­lars net­ted glob­ally from what has been dubbed “en­vi­ron­men­tal crime”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.