The term Bushmeat is used to describe the illegal and unsustainable commercial trade in wildlife for food which occurs in Africa and around the globe. Bushmeat may include illegal methods of hunting (snares and Guns); illegal species (endangered, threatened or protected); wildlife taken from un-authorized areas or hunting at unsustainable off take levels for commercial trade or non-commercial.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority several species have gone into extinction in Uganda. The Bright’s Gazelle, Roan antelope, the Rhinos, derby’s eland, Oryx, Bongo, Steenbok, bay duiker, white bellied duiker, and almost all other species have registered significant decline. Following declining trend in some wildlife population and the corresponding increase in human population, there are bound to be more declines as people look for livelihood, existence of policy contradictions, and information gap on Bushmeat.
The illicit trade and utilization of Bushmeat is perhaps the least documented in Eastern and southern Africa. In Uganda limited research has been conducted on bushmeat and this leaves information gap. Today the Bushmeat trade has escalated far beyond a subsistence level and in recent years has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.
Wildlife can only survive if it can provide tangible benefits to the people. That is why each year conservation bodies give out billions of shillings to communities to support community projects. Most of these projects cannot be traced by their first birth days save for infrastructure projects. Most of the community supports have been turned into public relation tools to justify conservation and as a ritual that has to be performed with little or no impact on the ground. Individual needs are neglected and yet individuals are the pace makers in poaching. Not all the communities poach. It is a very small fraction and yet their needs cannot be considered. It is a paradox. Most often times interventions are taken generally. Bushmeat intervention requires specific approaches rather than general wildlife interventions like anti-poaching as opposed to community conservation approaches which are broader in scope. Those interventions that target the poachers are in most cases insignificant with little or no follow up and the disgruntled reformed poachers revert to poaching again.
Most stakeholders specifically the Law enforcement agencies are in most cases not coordinated. It is not unusual to find a Bushmeat trader selling Bushmeat to law enforcement person, civil servants or even conservationists etc. It is very difficult to trace the Bushmeat trade. It is through a well-coordinated network of hunters, to middlemen then a well trusted transporter and well trusted consumer, through disguised methods of concealment and use of passwords to dupe unsuspecting law enforcement officers.
The UWA act 2019 comes with stringent punishment, first offender 7million shillings or 10years or both second offender 20 million shillings or 10years Maximum sentence is a fine of 20 billion shillings or life imprisonment. The punishments are deterrent and will see a section of the local communities sentenced.
Wildlife use rights are only mostly accessible to middle class leaving the poor communities out. Culturally some communities perform cultural rituals with animal, for example the burial of Kings, marriage ceremonies and funerals rites and treatment of certain ailment all require Bushmeat and parts of wild animal parts. Almost all species are targeted for Bushmeat but those commonly traded hippopotamus, Buffalos, Uganda Kob, warthogs, cane rat, Bush pig, Duikers and Waterbuck.
There is therefore need for awareness campaign targeting all levels of audiences especially the urban elites. Significant Alternative livelihood programs, Public private partnership (PPP) in Wildlife enterprise, farming, ranching and conservancies deliberately established to fill the gap. And Wildlife Use rights that deliberately target the local communities are needed. Above all law enforcement efforts geared towards partnerships with other security agencies is critical.
Mr. Genesis Okello
Livelihood and Environment - Ecological Trends Alliance