Species Conservation Groups and the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force
While unsustainable bushmeat hunting impacts a diversity of wildlife, the threat to a few charismatic species brought attention to the crisis in the late 1990’s. African great apes have been hit particularly hard by the growing trade, and their plight forced wildlife conservation groups to evaluate what they were doing about the bushmeat crisis. For many organizations, this concern has evolved into action that benefits not only apes but also other primates, elephants, duikers, rodents, cats, civets, pangolins, reptiles, birds, and any animal hunted for sale as food. Several groups are also tackling root causes, such as poverty and lack of information.
Organizations focusing on primate conservation have been part of BCTF since the beginning. The American Society of Primatologists (ASP), Bonobo Conservation Initiative, Bonobo Protection Fund, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), The Gorilla Foundation, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), The Primate Conservation and Welfare Society, and The Primate Society of Great Britain were all organizational signatories to the February 1999 Consensus Statement calling for immediate action to address the bushmeat crisis in tropical African countries.
Primates, and great apes in particular, illustrate many of the major concerns regarding bushmeat: their reproductive rate is too slow to support sustainable hunting, their closeness to humans makes them vectors for diseases deadly to people, and orphaned infants and juveniles are frequently offered for sale after the rest of the family is sold as food. Public concern for these issues is high, and every BCTF Supporting Member engages in primate conservation or protection in some capacity. Many BCTF partners – including the recently formed Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance (PASA) and the Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) – are focused entirely on this task.
Three current BCTF Supporting Members include primate conservation in their core mission: ASP, DFGFI and JGI. The following summaries provide a glimpse of what these groups do to promote or conduct research and work with communities to stem the bushmeat trade.
American Society of Primatologists
The American Society of Primatologists (ASP) is the professional society within North America dedicated to the study of primates. Our 650 members study primates in the wild, in laboratories, in zoos, and in sanctuaries. Our research covers every imaginable topic, including cognition and intelligence, health and husbandry, behavioral ecology and conservation.
Although habitat destruction is still the leading threat to most primate species worldwide, hunting has become the primary concern for many species – particularly in Africa and Asia. Thus, the bushmeat crisis is of key importance to members of the ASP. In 1997, before AZA’s formal interest led
to the formation of BCTF, ASP member Anthony Rose conducted a special workshop at the annual ASP conference entitled “The African primate bushmeat crisis.” This was the first time many ASP members were made aware of the severity of hunting pressures on primates. The ASP’s Conservation Committee took note of the topic and sought ways to address it within the Committee. In 1999, the year BCTF was founded, another special session was held at the ASP annual conference. “The African bushmeat crisis: New findings, theory, and solutions” was co-organized by ASP members Tara Stoinski and Anthony Rose. Several of the founding members of BCTF were present at that ASP session to discuss plans for the future and to invite ASP’s involvement.
When the BCTF was formed, ASP became a Contributing Member, and in 2001 became a full Supporting Member, with a seat on the Steering Committee shortly thereafter. At the 2002 ASP conference, a special session, “Solutions to the African bushmeat crisis: The Bushmeat Crisis Task Force and collaborative action planning,” was co-organized by Natalie Bailey, Dieter Steklis, Patrick Mehlman, Tara Stoinski, Christina Ellis, and Janette Wallis.
Thus, the ASP’s annual meetings have served as an educational resource for the topic of bushmeat and we support the BCTF’s activities. However, ASP plays an unusual role within BCTF. Because we are a professional society, we are made up of members, officers, and committees that function purely as volunteers. Thus, unlike other members of BCTF, we do not have personnel employed to carry out bushmeat research, education, awareness or enforcement on behalf of ASP. Still, we play an important role as a source of information and expertise. We have facilitated BCTF staff and fellow BCTF Supporting Members in various ways, such as helping with the development of educational materials, making referrals for habitat country contacts, and editing the scientific content of BCTF literature.
Beyond the financial support provided to BCTF, the ASP’s Conservation Committee can directly aid bushmeat projects through its annual Small Conservation Grants. Competition for these grants (maximum of $1500 each) has grown steadily over the years; during 2001, we received 22 proposals, in 2004, 45. Of the 11 grants awarded in 2003, 3 mentioned prevention of hunting or snare injuries as a specific part of the project. Many of the grants have been awarded for broad-based conservation education projects that include hunting as one of many threats to a primate population. Moreover, it is well recognized that the mere presence of researchers and field assistants can help to reduce hunting pressures.
The ASP Conservation Committee is currently planning a document that discusses the hunting threat to nonhuman primates. Moreover, members of the ASP, particularly the Conservation Committee, remain ready to aid the BCTF in whatever way we are able. For more information about the American Society of Primatologists, visit our web site at www.asp.org or feel free to contact the Chair of the ASP Conservation Committee (and BCTF Steering Committee Member, representing ASP), Dr. Janette Wallis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI, or the Gorilla Fund), originally founded as the Digit Fund, carries on the gorilla conservation legacy of Dian Fossey. DFGFI is committed to gorilla protection, science, field research, education and awareness, and economic development. Activities take place on many levels and places, involving people from Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa, the United States, and around the world.
Recently, DFGFI has begun to increase and diversify its programs to address pressing conservation challenges beyond the range of mountain gorillas, including an area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) covering more than three million hectares. This area has been identified as a unique eco-region with worldwide conservation significance. The area (referred to officially as the Maiko Tayna Kahuzi-Biega Landscape) has a very high level of species richness, many unique to this area and highly threatened. It supports an unusual combination of charismatic species, as well as about 97% of the distribution and population of eastern lowland gorillas. Like many areas in the world today, it is undergoing a biological and conservation crisis, suffering from over-hunting, mining, and expanding human population pressure as people clear land for agriculture and large commercial grazing. Recent surveys indicate the population of eastern lowland gorillas has plummeted, from an estimated 17,000 individuals in 1994 to 5,000 today.
Some of DFGFI’s most important activities include:
• Monitoring and protecting the mountain gorillas residing Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans, through the Karisoke Research Center's programs, including tracking and anti-poaching patrols.
• Sharing knowledge and experience to promote the use of common gorilla monitoring protocols and practices.
• Collecting demographic, behavioral and environmental data, often in collaboration with universities in Africa.
• Funding small-scale development activities in communities near the gorilla habitat, in support of the local people.
• Training rangers and trackers.
• Bringing GIS and remote sensing technology to collaborating universities in Africa. Training students and trackers in applying these powerful land use planning technologies.
• Promoting public awareness of gorilla conservation via media and other communication projects.
• Partnering with important gorilla conservation projects in other areas, such as the Tayna Gorilla Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded the Gorilla Fund over a half million dollars, as part of its Congressional Gorilla Directive. These funds are now enabling DFGFI to greatly expand and enhance its programs in the Albertine Rift area of Africa, including high-tech projects that will map out the mountain gorillas' dwindling habitat, programs to assist with health problems in populations living near the gorillas, support for local conservation and development initiatives, and new schools and other education projects.
Since 2000, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has been operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by supporting a series of community-based conservation and development projects. The flagship project, The Tayna Gorilla Reserve, is a 700 km2, nationally recognized Nature Reserve that is totally managed by a system of traditional African governance. Because of its success, seven other similar projects covering a region of more than 10,000 km2 are in development and have organized themselves into an association called UGADEC (Union des Associations de Conservation des Gorilles pour le Développement Communautaire à l'Est de la République Démocratique de Congo).
In partnership with Conservation International (CI), DFGFI has just strengthened its conservation program in eastern DRC. The new program will protect a large portion of the range of eastern lowland gorillas and the other fauna and flora found in their habitat, through a group of unique community-based preserves. This initiative is made possible by USAID’s Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), in support of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. Through funding from CARPE and CI’s Global Conservation Fund, DFGFI is expected to receive about $1 million each year for three years. This grant award will permit DFGFI to expand and support the UGADEC programs, and also to begin support for the rehabilitation of Maiko National Park, a 10,000 km2 park that has never received any international support.
For more information about DFGFI and its work, visit www.gorillafund.org.
Jane Goodall Institute
The mission of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) is to advance the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment of all living things. Specifically, JGI works to:
• Increase primate habitat conservation
• Increase awareness of, support for and training in issues related to our relationship with each other, the environment and other animals (leading to behavior change)
• Expand non-invasive research programs on chimpanzees and other primates
• Promote activities that ensure the well-being of chimpanzees, other primates and animal welfare activities in general
JGI is a founding member of BCTF, and Jane Goodall herself has a been a champion for raising awareness about the bushmeat crisis in many of her speaking engagements and as a keynote speaker for BCTF events.
JGI understands that they must address economic and social development needs for conservation to be effective. JGI’s Africa Programs division works to “ensure the long-term protection and survival of wild ape populations through the empowerment of the poor and disadvantaged people with whom they share their homes.” Field personnel in Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and – of course – Tanzania (home of the Gombe chimpanzees first studied by Dr. Goodall) work with communities to improve agricultural yields, build capacity for community-centered conservation and development, and raise public awareness about conservation issues.
JGI also supports chimpanzee sanctuaries, refuges for the orphans of the bushmeat trade which are sold as pets. The Institute operates sanctuaries in the Repubic of Congo and Kenya, provides support to Ngamba Island Sanctuary in Uganda, and has plans to open a new sanctuary soon in South Africa.
Bushmeat activities conducted by JGI staff are founded on the following guiding principles:
• Humans have a responsibility to address the conservation threats imposed by global politics, industrial exploitation, population growth, economic greed, and bad governance.
• The best way to preserve our natural heritage is to invest in meeting the needs of people. Clearly the environmental challenges humanity faces in the 21st century and beyond would be less difficult in a world with slower population growth.
• Sustainable livelihoods, development, and conservation are possible and effective measures to conserve biodiversity and human diversity.
• Respect for local communities, culture, and heritage guide field activities.
• A transparent and flexible manner is used in creating and implementing joint activities.
• Partnerships will achieve greater results than acting independently.
• Every individual matters, and every individual can make a difference.
Through their various programs, JGI strives to eliminate the illegal commercial bushmeat trade in endangered species, and to regulate the legal trade—as part of an integrated approach toward sustainable forest resource management. Their objectives address the various stakeholders, especially the role of women, with the ambition to affect long-term sustainable change by increasing the opportunity and ability to live sustainably.
JGI Africa Programs has a new website with more details on all of the programs introduced here, as well as many others. Visit www.janegoodall.org/africa-programs to learn more about JGI’s work in the field.