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Press Release 01/14


Rome, 12 March 2001 - Wild animal populations are dwindling in many parts of the world because of excessive hunting, leading to a "Bushmeat Crisis" that is threatening the food security of many forest communities, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned today.

FAO wildlife expert Douglas Williamson said that bushmeat traditionally made an important contribution to human nutrition in some 61 countries, where rural people obtained at least 20 percent of their animal protein from wild animals.

Mr. Williamson said that shrinking populations, particularly of large forest animals, could result in a long-term change in forest ecology, as many plants that depend on animals for pollination, seed dispersal or seed germination eventually disappeared. There were also risks to human health that should not be overlooked, the FAO expert stressed".

Among the main factors threatening long term supplies of wild meat were increasing population needs and pressure, the use of new technologies such as automatic weapons, the temporary encroachment of large numbers of people displaced by conflicts and the growth of a commercial trade in wild meat, Mr Williamson said. Meat from wild animals that was traditionally used by forest communities for their own consumption was now being collected for sale in urban areas, including cities with huge populations. Since there were natural limits to the level of harvesting that wildlife populations could sustain, such trade could result in the extinction of many populations, especially of vulnerable species such as elephants, larger antelopes, gorillas and chimpanzees.

Such unsustainable trade in wild meat is a particular problem in the Congo Basin because conflict and civil disturbances have disrupted normal economic activity and forced people to turn to wild meat as a source of income.

In response to the Bushmeat Crisis , a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have formed an alliance to try to tackle the problem, which is being addressed by a working group of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), of which FAO is a member .

The Organization's Assistant Director General for Forestry, Hosny El Lakany, said current discussions between FAO and other organizations were concentrating on ways and means of enforcing existing laws and regulations, and effective protection and management of existing national parks and game reserves .

He said potential longer term measures could include educating hunters and traders about species that can or cannot sustain intensive hunting; effective regulation of bushmeat markets and trade; identifying and promoting alternative protein sources; identifying and promoting alternative sources of income; expanding protected area systems; and including wildlife management among the conditions for the granting of logging concessions.

FAO is currently working on two projects aimed at enhancing the sustainability of wild meat use as part of the Organization's commitment to improving food security and protecting biological diversity, Dr. El Lakany added .


For further information, please contact Mr. Douglas Williamson, Tel.00390657052332 , Email:

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