Eating Our Cousins: Jane Goodall And The Bushmeat Crisis
Mention the name “Jane Goodall” and you’re likely to be greeted with varying degrees of familiarity. No matter what, it’s certain that the name will be associated with Africa and the study of chimpanzees.
What many people don’t realize is that Goodall’s activism extended far beyond the chimpanzees with whom she spent so much time.
These days, Dr. Goodall spends less time in the field and more time educating people around the world about the multitude of human and environmental threats that face the world’s most unique and endangered species.
One of the most serious of these threats is the commercial bushmeat trade.
Vegetarian or not, most people have a firm idea of what constitutes edible meat: cow, chicken, pig, turkey, etc. But in Africa, all wildlife species are used for meat including elephant, gorilla, chimpanzee and other primates, forest antelope (duikers), crocodile, porcupine, bush pig, cane rat, pangolin, monitor lizard, guinea fowl, etc.
Hunters refer to the African forest as “the bush,” therefore wildlife and the meat derived from it is referred to as “bushmeat.”
Although habitat loss from climate change, logging and commercial development is a serious threat to endangered African species, the commercial bushmeat trade is considered to be the most immediate threat. It has already resulted in widespread local extinctions in Asia and West Africa. And often, these issues go hand in hand, as those responsible for building roads and harvesting trees hunt for bushmeat to eat along the way.
According to Bushmeat.org, “the bushmeat crisis is a human tragedy as well: the loss of wildlife threatens the livelihoods and food security of indigenous and rural populations who depend on wildlife as a staple or supplement to their diet, and bushmeat consumption is increasingly linked to deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Foot and Mouth disease.”
And lest you think that this problem only concerns people in Africa, consider this: Last year, officials in New York City seized hundreds of samples of wildlife products coming in luggage and mail parcels. Several of these samples contained two strains of simian foamy virus which can be transferred to humans (Discovery).
“Raising awareness is a powerful means of creating change, especially in this day of global communication,” writes Goodall on her Foundation’s website. “If you educate yourself about the bushmeat problem and help spread the word, then you will be making a meaningful contribution to the fight to save chimpanzees and other endangered species.”
Some suggested resources for education and action:
- The Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, of which Goodall was a founding member.
- Learn more about the commercial hunting of apes in logging concessions.
- The slaughter of 4 gorillas in Congo is the news hook for this 2007 analysis of the bushmeat crisis in Newsweek: Cry of the Wild
Have you been inspired by Jane Goodall and the work that she’s done for 50 years? Now’s your chance to meet her and go backstage at Jane Goodall Live in Los Angeles! One person will win a trip for two to Los Angeles and backstage passes to meet Jane. Care2 will also be giving away tickets to neighborhood theaters across the U.S. for the one night Jane Goodall Live event. To register, visit www.care2.com/jane. (Only open to US residents).
Image Credit: Jane Goodall