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, “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:

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 (Only open to US residents).

Related Reading:

A Conversation With Dr. Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall Offers Hope For Chimpanzees

Jane Goodall Calls On Youth To Fight For Endangered Species

Image Credit: Jane Goodall

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Dianne B.
Dianne B.3 years ago

Thank you Jane!

Adrianne P.
A P.3 years ago

Jane Goodall is an amazing, inspiring woman.

Andrea A.
Andrea A.3 years ago

Noted, thanks.

Meg Graham
Meg G.3 years ago

for thousands of years africans and asians have hunted for meat. Any meat that gave them energy to survive until the next day, next week was acceptable. It has nothing to do with being a cannibal it is a simple matter of survival.
Unfortunately with modern weapons hunting trips are now highly successful where as using spears, bows and arrows required a huge amount of skill to be able to kill.
We in the western world can bemoan that these magnificent animals are killed for food while we sit and eat our cheap chicken, beef, pork, lamb or if your a vegetarian like me our tofu, beans, etc. We though can walk/drive to the corner shop, to the nearest supermarket or whole food chain. But tell me where are the people in the african/asian bush going to get their food from? Alot live a subsistance life and cannot afford to buy meat even if it was available so hunting for it is cheap. Others hunt to make money by selling the meat to those who can afford it and then there are those people who simply like and prefer different flavoured meat. Is that really any different to other cultures that enjoy duck, wild boar, venison etc.
Until food security for these people is solved then hunting and eating bush meat will continue.

So tell me if your life and the life of your family balanced on the ability to hunt meat for either selling or eating and it has always been part of your culture would you stop because someone said you shouldn't do it as the animal is a vital part of the en

Sheri D.
Sheri D.3 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Bernard Cronyn
.3 years ago

I am more concerned about the harm done to these rare species than the harm that may or may not be done to hunters and consumers of primate flesh. In fact dying from eating primate flesh in my book is labelled "just deserts". Eating primates is one small step away from cannibalism indicating the lowdown morality of those who consume primate "bush-meat".

Casey Loufek
Casey Loufek3 years ago

"I really don't understand how consuming meat can be linked to HIV."

Because the common hypothesis is that HIV mutated from a strain infecting African primates, one way this could have happened was by humans consuming other primates who were infected. No proof but there are enough points of data to call it a link.

Christina B.
Christina B.4 years ago

"bushmeat consumption is increasingly linked to deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Foot and Mouth disease.”

I really don't understand how consuming meat can be linked to HIV. Although I do understand the dangers that bushmeat hunting poses to the environment, I think this statement is scientifically wrong.

Sonya Armenia Redfield

Noted & thanks