25% of the meat sold in Nairobi is illegal bushmeat, Youth for Conservation finds

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

NAIROBI–“Youth for Conservation,
commissioned by the Born Free Foundation,
surveyed 202 Nairobi butcher shops, and
shockingly established that 25% of the meat sold
was bushmeat,” YfC founder Josphat Nyongo
e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on November 1, 2004.
“This is an alarming revelation [for
human health as well as the status of wildlife] in the light of the known health hazards,”
Nyongo explained. “It means that people are
buying uninspected bushmeat unknowingly.”
The YfC bushmeat survey findings were
first disclosed a week earlier by Born Free
Foundation spokesperson Winnie Kiiru, but were
not attributed to YfC in coverage by John Kamau
of the East African Standard. Kamau reported
that, “Up to 51% of the meat sold in Nairobi is
bushmeat or from unknown speciesÅ Only 42% of the
202 samples randomly purchased from different
butcheries was found to be domestic meat.”

Ngonyo’s numbers and those Kamau used may
not match, but are both close to the estimates
used by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Confirmed
KWS spokesperson Edward Indakwa, “The figures,
though scary, are true. Our estimate has been
between 30% and 50%.” KWS also estimates that
Kenya now has just 42% of the wildlife that it
had 20 years ago,” Indakwa added.

Disease risk

“The study found that 19% of the butchers
mixed domestic and bush meat and sold it to
unsuspecting customers,” Kamau wrote. “In
recent years, widespread consumption of bushmeat
has been blamed for the transmission of zoonotic
diseases such as Ebola virus, anthrax, and
Severe Accute Respiratory Syndrome.”
“Diseases have always passed from wild
animals to human hunters,” Johns Hopkins
University School of Public Health director of
Cameroon programs Nathan Wolfe explained in a
September 2000 U.S. Newswire media alert, “but
dramatic increases in tropical logging, with new
trucks and access roads, have allowed local
disease outbreaks to have potentially global
On March 20, 2004 the British Medical
Association journal The Lancet published Wolfe’s
finding that blood samples from 10 of 1,099
Cameroonians taking part in an HIV prevention
program showed antibodies to simian foamy virus.
All 10 of the affected individuals were
involved in hunting and butchering nonhuman
primates for human consumption, including De
Brazza’s guenon, mandrill and gorilla. The study
provided the first confirmation outside a
laboratory setting that nonhuman primate
retroviruses can infect humans.
Nonhuman primates are rarely knowingly
eaten in Kenya, but are commonly hunted and
eaten in neighboring Uganda. The YfC finding
that a third of the meat sold in Nairobi cannot
be identified as either “domestic” (42%) or from
wild species that are commonly eaten (25%) raises
the possibility that nonhuman primates, perhaps
from Uganda, are much more often on the menu
than has been recognized.
Since most Nairobi butchers do not have
refrigeration, the YfC findings confirm that
bushmeat is killed and bootlegged into the city
in high volume virtually every day.
“We are pressing for government action
and trust that this will also influence change in
people’s diet,” Nyongo said.

Trophy hunting

As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press Nyongo was
preparing to testify against a private bill by
Member of Parliament G.G. Kariuki that would
amend the 1975 Kenya Conservation & Management
Act in many ways advantageous to game ranchers.
Similar provisions are reportedly part of
proposed amendments to the Revised Wildlife Act
of 1974 in neighboring Tanzania.
Ranchers of both nations argue that raising
native species for meat would be less stressful
to the mostly arid land than raising cattle and
goats, the primary domestic meat species in East
Africa, but an expanded legal trade in game meat
could easily cover for expanded bushmeat traffic.
Further, legally ranched game meat would
cost money to produce, and could not even to
begin to compete economically with poached
bushmeat in the open market–so long as wildlife
remains to poach.
Kenyan ranchers have for 27 years now been trying
to repeal the 1977 Kenyan ban on sport hunting.
Expanding game ranching in ostensible competition
with bushmeat poachers is only one pretext for
proposed changes in Kenyan law that would enable
the ranchers to compete with the established
hunting ranches of South Africa to attract
Europeans and Americans who formerly shot trophy
animals at fancy prices in Zimbabwe.
Since invasions of Zimbabwean game
ranches by landless “war veterans” started in
2000, tacitly supported by the Robert Mugabe
regime, Zimbabwean trophy hunting revenues have
collapsed from $24 million a year to $13 million.
During the same years so many South
Africans have jumped at the chance to capture the
lost Zimbabwean business that South Africa now
has as many as 10,000 game ranches, according to
University of Pretoria Centre for Wildlife
Management professor Kobus Bothma, but only
about 3,000 foreign hunters per year visit South
The belief that huge profits are to be
made by repealing the Kenyan ban on sport hunting
is promoted by the African Wildlife Foundation,
Safari Club International, and allies in the
U.S. government.
Trophy hunters would benefit if more
nations competed for their business, while the
relative success of Kenya and India in keeping
wildlife (India banned sport hunting in 1973) is
an ongoing embarrassment to proponents of
wildlife management funded by hunting revenue.
While both Kenya and India have lost much
wildlife and still have serious poaching
problems, neither has lost wildlife as rapidly
as most other economically disadvantaged nations.

Bush administration

The Kenyan ranchers’ hand was
strengthened by the November 2 re-election of
U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush, vice
president Dick Cheney, and U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell are both life members of
Safari Club International, as is the president’s
father, former U.S. President George H. Bush.
The White House has favored the pro-hunting
faction in making diplomatic appointments.
In mid-September 2004, Nyongo reported,
“Safari Club International, USAid, and the East
Africa Wildlife Society sponsored a visit to
Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe by about 16
members of the Kenyan parliament to see how well
consumptive utilization of wildlife is managed
and is working there.”
Joining the junket, also expenses paid,
were “a media representative, a Kenya Wildlife
Service representative, the speaker of Kenya’s
national assembly, and members of the Kenya
Wildlife Working Group,” Nyongo wrote. A Youth
for Conservation member was also invited, Nyongo
said, but the invitation was rescinded after YfC
accepted it.
While the Kenyan delgation was being told
about the alleged Zimbabwean success, Zimbabwean
Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrieguez
was researching an expose of hunting outfitters
who Rodrieguez claims are taking advantage of the
lack of effective law enforcement in Zimbabwe to
wreak even more havoc on wildlife than the “war
veterans” they work with.
“Nobody abides by any quotas so it’s open
season on wildlife in Zimbabwe,” Rodrieguez
wrote. His findings are online at
Ngonyo to visit U.S.
ANIMAL PEOPLE plans to bring Josphat
Ngonyo to the U.S. in September to attend the
Conference on Homeless Animal Management & Policy
in Anaheim and a seminar at the Helen V. Woodward
Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. Animal groups
that could provide additional relevant training
or speaking opportunities should contact Kim
Bartlett <ANPEOPLE@whidbey.com>.

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