Despite taboos many West African farmers eat wild animals

23 September 2020

People continue to eat the meat of wild animals for various reasons. Some in poor rural communities in the developing world do so for sustenance. Others in better-off societies feast on so-called bushmeat for culinary reasons. Others still eat wild animals because they forage on their crops.

An international team of researchers working in the High Niger National Park in the Republic of Guinea in West Africa has found that animals such as warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) are often killed and then sold for meat even by local Muslim farmers despite a religious taboo against the eating of pork, which is considered unclean in Islam.

“These species are increasingly being killed to protect crops and farmers can gain economically from their sale, providing an additional incentive for killing,” the researchers explain. “The consumption of wild pigs is prohibited by Islam, yet a marked increase in the number of carcasses recorded in rural areas from 2011 to 2017 has suggested an erosion in the religious taboo.”

The national park is home to a large variety of mammals, of which 94 species were recorded in the area and its environs by a team of scientists two decades ago. The park is located in the savanna belt of Guinea and boasts patches of remnant forest where numerous species cohabit, including green monkeys, Gambian mongooses, hump-nosed mice and flying squirrels.

Yet many of these animals are not at risk of being hunted and eaten. Conservationists realized this after they tracked what animals were on offer at three rural markets in the national park as well as in a nearby town called Faranah.

Despite the reduction in demand for wildmeat in urban areas, pressures on wildlife remain high within the national park because local farmers are now killing large numbers of various animals that freed on their crops, according to Tatyana Humle, a zoologist at the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology who was an author of a new paper on the findings.

“Mammals, most notably small-sized species, now dominate the wildmeat trade around High Niger National Park. Further findings indicate a marked increase in the number of carcasses and biomass offered for sale from 2001 onwards in rural areas, whereas in Faranah there were no notable differences with data gathered in 1994,” the researchers explain.

“Therefore, urban demand does not appear to be driving the wildmeat trade in this region. Instead, the wildmeat trade in rural areas could perhaps be linked to an increase in human population and limited access to alternative sources of animal protein,” they add.

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