The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has prompted countries such as Cote d’Ivoire to issue bans on consuming bushmeat – including chimpanzees and other primates – in an effort to isolate the deadly disease. The haemorrhagic fever has already claimed over 135 lives in the latest outbreak.
The Agence France-Presse reports that late in March, Cote d’Ivoire Health Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie called for her compatriots to stop eating porcupines and agoutis, which look like large river-rats, “until we can be sure there are no risks”.
Bushmeat is known to be a vector of Ebola, the alarming haemorrhagic fever that has claimed at least 122 lives in Guinea, according to a UN World Health Organisation toll on April 17. Liberia, meanwhile, reports 13 deaths.
Hunters and restaurant owners in the central Ivorian town of Bouake are upset that clients have begun to steer clear of the strong taste of the agouti, a beast with a long snout and brown fur that can reach half a metre (1.6 feet) in length.
Last week, the minister’s recommendation was still going unheeded or ignored by some traders and hunters in Bouake’s main bushmeat market. But such scenes are swiftly becoming a thing of the past. An official ban on bushmeat – including antelopes, chimpanzees and porcupines as well as agoutis – has been enforced and a week later, the Bouake market was empty.
State officials from the water and forestry service and in the health sector are patrolling the whole country in search of offenders. They recently burned 200 kilos (440 pounds) of smoked game found in the capital Yamoussoukro.
The stakes are high. Wild animals are carriers of often deadly haemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola for which there is no medical cure. People subsequently contaminate each other by direct contact with blood, bodily fluids and the tissue of infected patients, including dead ones during their burial.
The current strain of Ebola kills 90 percent of its victims and suspect cases have been reported in Sierra Leone and Mali, while Senegal has closed its border with Guinea.
Fear of the disease runs high in Ivory Coast, another of Guinea’s neighbours, though no cases have yet been reported. People have begun to listen to official warnings and instructions.