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Bushmeat Could Cause Next Pandemic (Video)

Bushmeat Could Cause Next Pandemic (Video)

We now know that HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, likely originated in chimpanzees and we also know that it likely spread from forest origins deep in Cameroon and then to the Congo during a period of Imperial expansion by Belgium at the beginning of the 20th century.

According to an investigation by “Unreported World,” those forests are once again being tapped for meat with supply lines out to the rest of Cameroon and on to the rest of the world — creating fears that another deadly pathogen will make its way from great apes or monkeys to us.

“Bushmeat” is 80% of the meat eaten in the Central West African country and many thousands of tons are illegally exported around the world.

In January, screenings at JFK International Airport in New York found a number of viruses which can be transmitted to humans in smuggled packages of meat from various monkeys — and from chimpanzees.

In Cameroon, “Unreported World” found once inaccessible forests in the same regions thought to be the source of HIV now opened up by logging tracks. There are a tiny group of brave wardens for one forest reserve, armed with little more than knives and now with little funding.

One warden tells them:

The only guns we have are WW2 French rifles. The government keeps promising us new weapons but they never come. If we do catch armed poachers it can turn violent and it’s every man for himself and God for everyone.

Hunting of great apes is illegal in Cameroon, with a possible three year jail term, but not of other forest creatures.

Reporter Evan Williams met local Baka, also known as pygmies, who take orders several times a week. A chimpanzee will earn them 25-30 — a vast sum. But if this meat makes its way to markets in Paris or London, it fetches many hundreds of euros per kilogram.

See video here of his trip into the forest with a Baka hunter who explains how and why he kills gorilla.

He discovers that eating gorilla led to the deaths of an entire village from an unknown cause, possibly ebola, save for one women who didn’t eat the meat. Apes host ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered as well as an immunodeficiency virus believed to be the source of our HIV. The retroviruses found in that sampling at JFK Airport were simian foamy virus, cytomegalovirus and lymphocryptovirus.

According to Professor Dominique Baudon at the Pasteur Centre, it is certain that within the next two decades the eating of bushmeat will lead to the appearance of a new viral pathogen like HIV or Ebola.

Babila Tafon, head vet at the primate sanctuary Ape Action Africa (AAA), in Mefou, just outside the capital Yaounde, has detected simian foamy virus transmission to humans who are bitten or who have direct blood contact. The risk is lower, says Tafon, for cooked or smoked meat, but not eliminated.

Rachel Hogan from AAA also tells Williams that the bushmeat trade is leading to an explosion in the numbers of orphaned great apes.

Hogan says they are often suffering from terrible wounds and trauma when they arrive.

They grieve just like humans. We have had them where they will just sit rocking, grinding their teeth and they don’t respond to anything. You have to be able to win back their trust.

If this continues there might not be any wild populations of gorillas left.

The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) says it is the world’s only enforcement NGO. It focuses on investigating major wildlife slaughter and trafficking and now has more than 450 successful prosecutions under its belt in Cameroon alone.

Corruption remains one of the biggest enemies and LAGA warns of a major regionalization and internationalization of the illegal meat and live-animal trafficking in endangered species.

Here’s the story of one baby gorilla, Nona, who was left for dead by poachers and nursed back to life at the Ape Action Africa sanctuary (Warning: disturbing images):

Related stories:

Eating Our Cousins: Jane Goodall And The Bushmeat Crisis

Spread of HIV Follows Western Imperialism in Africa

Bushmeat and Wildlife Viruses Found

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo credit: Channel Four screen grab

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82 comments

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4:51PM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

look at those eyes...so innocent and curious...how could people do this to them??? it's sick!

10:01AM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

This is horrible and I don't accept this crap!!!

3:39PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Let's be clear about this. While poverty is undeniably a factor in the increasing demand for bushmeat probably a more important driver is increasing wealth in a country which has a cultural affinity for bushmeat (80% of animal protein in Camerron originates from bushmeat). Read the earlier comment about the African migrant worker in London who went out of his way to buy the more expensive bushmeat 'cos it reminded him of home'. See, its like the attitude of many in the Far East where increasing levels of wealth are decimating wildlife from all corners of the world to the point of extinction to feed their insatiable demand for 'exotic meat' just for some ludicrous status symbol or increased sexual prowess. Don't think that ending poverty will end this slaughter. It will take a generation of educating and change of attitudes but I very much fear by that time all will be lost. The burgeoning growth in human numbers (projected as 9000,000,000+ by 2050) and increasing prosperity makes for an extremely bleak future.

3:38PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Let's be clear about this. While poverty is undeniably a factor in the increasing demand for bushmeat probably a more important driver is increasing wealth in a country which has a cultural affinity for bushmeat (80% of animal protein in Camerron originates from bushmeat). Read the earlier comment about the African migrant worker in London who went out of his way to buy the more expensive bushmeat 'cos it reminded him of home'. See, its like the attitude of many in the Far East where increasing levels of wealth are decimating wildlife from all corners of the world to the point of extinction to feed their insatiable demand for 'exotic meat' just for some ludicrous status symbol or increased sexual prowess. Don't think that ending poverty will end this slaughter. It will take a generation of educating and change of attitudes but I very much fear by that time all will be lost. The burgeoning growth in human numbers (projected as 9000,000,000+ by 2050) and increasing prosperity makes for an extremely bleak future.

6:51PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

"This whole sorry story is not the fault of the indigenous people who are desperately poor and with no other means of supporting their families."

The catechism classes said that stealing would be forgiven if one stole to feed one’s family. Why not steal to feed a dozen? Why not have one’s extended family take everything from everybody?

Every bit of property, every animal, every plant down to the last blade of grass, every drop of water, every bit of fossil fuel down to the last crumb of coal would go to those most tolerant of crowding and starvation and most greedy for offspring.

If one can choose whether to drink, then drunkenness is no defense for crime. If one can choose whether to have children, then achieving a predictable starvation cannot be a defense either.

The planet’s sustainable population is more like 1-2 Billion. In getting to that number, will we sacrifice everything else to delay the inevitable or will we sacrifice the fastest rising populations to preserve some fraction of the natural world?

Some would deny medical care to those who have chosen to overeat and to smoke. Is it not morally equivalent to deny assistance to cultures that have bred themselves into starvation?

Without outside aid, those lacking compassion for other primates would display an equal lack of compassion for each other. Those who would eat the last of a species might be the first to be eaten by their fellows. That happened on Easter Island.

Withou

3:03AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

This whole sorry story is not the fault of the indigenous people who are desperately poor and with no other means of supporting their families. Much of the fertile land in this area has been purchased by huge multi-national agri-businesses who use it to grow out of season, luxury vegetable and fruit and cheap, cut flowers to sell in the supermarkets, mostly in Western Europe.

If people are so worried about the spread of 'ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered'; they should start by pinning the blame firmly where it belongs and ensure that indigenous people have the chance to be properly educated and have proper, gainful employment.

3:20PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

Janet, that really is a crude comment, they eat it because there's nothing else.

12:11PM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

thnx

4:50PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

"People" who want to eat Bush meat are no different really trim those who eat other dead animals. They just don't give a shit because they totally lack the ability and willingness to actually think about what they are doing.

2:15PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

Any thing BUSH is BAD !

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