The Congo Basin contains the planet’s second largest forest zone and constitutes one of its richest areas on terms of biodiversity. But the region is also home to 130 million people, most of whom depend directly on forest resources. They hunt wild animals to eat and sell, as their primary source of protein and main income-generating activity.
Every year 5 million tons of game is harvested in the Congo Basin, demand which is fuelled by increasing urbanization, lack of other sources of protein, high prices of meat from livestock, and preferences among urban consumers for bushmeat. That heavy and unsustainable harvest threatens many vulnerable species, as well as the food security and livelihoods of many tropical and subtropical forest dwellers, including indigenous communities. But bushmeat is also a reservoir for zoonotic pathogens, with potentially devastating consequences as we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The challenge is to better meet the needs of local populations without compromising wildlife resources for future generations.
In Gabon, the key lies in the cities, where four in five Gabonese now live. While rural populations depend on hunting, Gabon's urban population actively choose to eat bushmeat despite having other options. Tackling the urban demand for bushmeat and raising awareness of the the environmental impacts of the bushmeat trade is critical to conserving Gabon’s wildlife.
In 2020, Gabon changed its laws on bushmeat following the Covid-19 pandemic, prohibiting the exploitation of all species of pangolin and bats. Enforcement measures were also taken at markets in the capital Libreville. However, governmental agencies still need help to raise awareness, publicize these changes and explain the reasons behind them. Through short videos, mini-documentaries, an educational program, and other awareness activities, we hope to change attitudes and behaviors amongst the urban population by outlining the risks of the unsustainable consumption of bushmeat.