More than five tons of illegal bushmeat from Africa is smuggled every week in personal luggage through Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. A team of experts from France, Cambodia, and the U.K., who completed a study based on searches carried out over 17 days at the airport, said it was “the first systematic study of the scale and nature of this international trade.” Their research was published Friday, June 18, in the journal Conservation Letters.
During the 17-day study, 134 passengers arriving on 29 Air France flights from 14 nations in Central and West Africa in June 2008 were searched. The investigation discovered smuggled meat from 11 species, including guenon and mangabay monkeys, the blue duiker forest deer, two types of pangolin and both Nile and slender-snouted crocodiles. The biggest single haul was 112 pounds of meat carried by a single passenger who had no other luggage.
There are many reasons to be alarmed: “Our results estimate that around 270 tones of potentially contaminated, illegal bushmeat is passing unchecked through a single European airport per year, posing a huge potential risk to public health,” said lead author Anne-Lise Chaber of Britain’s Royal Veterinary College.
That’s one. Then there’s the fact that 39 percent of the bushmeat came from creatures supposedly protected by the Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species.
And then too, experts suspect that similar amounts are being smuggled in through other European hubs, and into the United States. Nina Marano, chief of the quarantine unit at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that similar underground markets for bushmeat exist across America. “We have to be culturally sensitive and recognize this is important for some African communities,” she said.”But there are no regulations for the preparation of meat from wildlife to render it safe.”
Another factor: the trade can be very lucrative. “A 4-kilogram monkey will cost around a hundred euros (in France), compared with just five euros in Cameroon,” said Dr. Marcus Rowcliffe, from London’s Zoological Society, and co-author of the report.
Since there is clearly a market for the bushmeat, it seems obvious that with a possible 270 tons of illegal imports a year, it is important to start enforcing the penalties for importing illegal meat, whether by offering incentives to customs officers, increasing the penalties, or raising awareness amongst passengers that bringing such products into the European Union is against the law.
Whether it’s concern for human health or for the preservation of endangered species that motivates you, it’s time to take action!
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