As China banned eating and farming of wild animals, hunting for food in the African jungles still remains a major source of food. In the wake of the deadly pandemic, China rolled out a strict ban on all wild life consumption.
The Andilukbo clan, in the dense tropical forest near Wamba in North-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, relies on bow hunting for food. The clan is now facing a strong competition from outsiders. The outsiders go deep into the jungle looking for wildlife to supply a long-distance market for bush-meat.
The bush-meat feeds urban populations as far as 250 miles away. During peak seasons, the bush-meat goes 950 miles downriver to the capital Kinshasa.
The urban populations are not new with the scares of food security. The scares can be emphasized further by the risks posed by rural-to-urban trade in wild bush-meat. Antelope, primates, pigs, rodents, crocodiles, bats and pangolins are classified as hosts of deadly viruses. These animals are the most hunted in the central of Africa.
The European CDC has said that “Ebola outbreaks in the DRC are recurrent as the virus is present in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.” There have been no evidence linking Ebola outbreaks to specific animal-to-human transmissions. It is believed the recurrent behavior around animal reservoirs points to a possible animal-to-human transmission. Since 1976, there have been nineteen outbreaks of Ebola across the Central of Africa.
The Congo basin’s bats, rodents and primates have been identified with multiple strains of corona-viruses. This stems from already known corona viruses as well as new ones that could pause potential dangers to human life.
The current world Pandemic, Covid-19, is also a huge red stop sign towards the consumption of wild meat. Food security has become quite a challenge in the forest communities. This makes hunting their only option.
The current locust swam that has swept across East Africa also sends signals of bush meat becoming an option in the months to come.
African governments must play a huge role in minimizing wildlife-human interactions. The governments must play a role against the degradation and fragmentation of forests. This will help reduce exposure to potential wildlife diseases as animals shall remain in their natural habitats.
Central Africa must for instance protect the traditional lands owned by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs). This will minimize the rural-urban interactions by eradicating the disruption of the ecosystem function caused by the high-risk commercial bush-meat trade.
Forest dependents must also be recognized. This will help in protecting the forest communities traditional territorial rights. In Central Africa, implementing a law that helps avoid bush-meat across all major cities is a must. This will have positive impacts on public health, rural families’ food security, and biodiversity.