By MIRRIAM NASILELE
GROWING up, I delighted in consuming bushmeat without questioning its source, unaware of the detrimental impact it had on my health, wildlife, and ecosystems. However, an eye-opening campaign by Wildlife Crime Prevention (WCP) Zambia and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
The This Is Not A Game behavioural change campaign on illegal bushmeat hinges on the message that bushmeat is illegal, dangerous and carries diseases. It unveiled the grim reality of the illegal bushmeat trade. This illicit practice, driven by unsustainable hunting methods and unregulated handling, poses grave threats to wildlife populations, ecosystems, and public health. As I now work in wildlife conservation, I feel compelled to share the knowledge I have gained and urge you to join the movement against the illegal bushmeat trade.
The illegal bushmeat trade refers to the unsustainable and commercial trafficking of wildlife meat. Indiscriminate hunting methods, such as snaring, result in the silent demise of numerous species, including ungulates, carnivores, and elephants. This unsustainable trade not only causes ecosystem collapse but also endangers threatened carnivore populations and undermines the wildlife heritage, tourism, and employment opportunities in African countries, Zambia in particular. The trade’s ecological and economic implications are dire, calling for a disruption of this vicious cycle.
In Zambia, poachers often employ wire snares to hunt wildlife in protected areas; national parks, Game Management Areas (GMAs) and game farms. Motivated by the need for income, they sell the illegally obtained bushmeat to traders in nearby towns. However, this activity is not only perilous due to encounters with wild animals but also due to the lack of employment options for vulnerable communities. Moreover, the unhygienic processing methods, including butchering with rusty knives and smoking and drying the meat in unsanitary conditions, heighten the risk of contamination. The mixing of cuts from different species further adds to the dangers of consuming illegally sourced bushmeat, as it may contain pieces of various animals, including endangered species such as pangolins and wild dogs.i
The illegal bushmeat trade fuels corruption within the system. Traders conceal the meat in bags of charcoal or agricultural produce to evade detection, often transporting it for days in unclean vehicles.ii The absence of a certifiable identification method for the meat’s origin allows traders to misrepresent and sell it as a preferred species such as buffalo or impala, further deceiving unsuspecting consumers. Consequently, consuming illegally sourced wild meat puts individuals at risk of contracting various diseases, while perpetuating the cycle of corruption and illegal activities.iii
Changing the game! It is crucial to actively participate in the movement against the illegal bushmeat trade. Here are some steps you can take:
1. Seek legal licenses: When offered bushmeat, ask for legal licenses to ensure its legitimacy and traceability.
2. Report suspicious activities: If you come across any suspicious or illegal bushmeat trade, promptly report it to the DNPW or relevant authorities.
3. Choose legal game meat suppliers: Support legal game meat suppliers who adhere to proper regulations and hygiene standards. Visit
https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsNotAGameZm/photos/pb.100064869060682.-2207520000./9547231778628163/?type=3 for verified suppliers.
4. Spread the message: Utilize social media platforms to share your thoughts and raise awareness using hashtags like #ThisIsNotAGame and #IChooseLegalGame.
Consuming illegal bushmeat not only perpetuates the cycle of corruption but also endangers wildlife populations, ecosystems, and public health. By choosing legal alternatives, reporting illegal activities, and supporting conservation efforts, we can collectively work towards a sustainable future. Let us stand together and support Zambia’s thriving game farming industry while safeguarding our natural heritage. Join the movement today!