Rare animals, including chimpanzees and gorillas, are being hunted into extinction because of record levels of demand for bush meat, according to a new study.
Research in the Congo Basin in Africa found more than three million tonnes of ‘bush meat’ is being extracted from the area every year, the equivalent of butchering 740,000 bull elephants.
Most of the animals are small antelopes like blue duiker or rodents like the porcupine but larger mammals like monkeys and even gorillas are also taken.
The study published in Mammal Review found the rate of hunting is higher than ever because of malnutrition in the area and is calling for more funding to help the local community find alternative sources of food.
Meat from wild animals or ‘bush meat’ is one of the most important sources of protein for many people around the world, especially in Africa.
But in a 500 million acre region of the Congo Basin stretching into eight countries, hunting has reached an unprecedented scale.
Researchers from the Overseas Development Insititute calculated that 3.4 million tonnes of bushmeat is removed every year from that area alone, equivalent to the weight of 40.7 million men.
John Fa, chief conservation officer at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and a visiting professor at Imperial College London, said it was “unsustainable”. He pointed out that illegal logging is also destroying habitat and predators like leopards will be unable to survive without prey.
“People are taking rare animals out of the forest at an enormous rate yet we know very little about them,” he said.
The 10 animals most vulnerable to extinction by hunting:
Red colobus monkey
Black colobus monkey
Preuss’s guenon monkey
Moustached guenon monkey
Crowned guenon monkey