Keeping Bushmeat off the Rails in Cameroon

Cameroon Bushmeat Trade on the Rails Photo
WCS works with Cameroon's Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the CAMRAIL national train network to monitor illegal wildlife transport.
© Frank Ribas

Commercial hunting and the bushmeat trade plague Cameroon’s critically endangered Cross River gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and other imperiled species. But the area and number of people involved in the illegal trade make conventional law enforcement virtually impossible. The country’s economic and political instabilities also make it difficult to manage natural resources. Cameroon’s anti-poaching and bushmeat trade project works to improve law enforcement by limiting access to lucrative urban bushmeat markets. The project unites WCS with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the CAMRAIL national train network—which, in the past, was commonly used to transport large volumes of wildlife.

Challenges

Many rural communities in Cameroon hunt bushmeat, both to eat and to sell for a living. As populations continue to grow in cities as well as in forest logging concessions and mining camps, demand for wild meat rises. Sales of bushmeat also fetch a higher price as new urban markets are established, stimulating increased trade. Lack of awareness about the scale of the trade—and the consequences of unsustainable exploitation—make it difficult to get the problem under control. The railway has been a major transportation link between the remote areas of central and northern Cameroon and the large cities of the south. Stopping transportation of bushmeat on the trains is critical to controlling this highly damaging trade.

Goals

  • Incorporate measures to ban transportation of bushmeat on Cameroon’s railways.
  • Train a core group of ecoguards to enforce the regulations at the stations and on the trains.
  • Conduct far-reaching education programs in communities near the railway and near protected areas that are subject to wildlife hunting.
  • Help former poachers to learn new trades and find sustainable sources of income.

What WCS is Doing

WCS has carried out a series of surveys of commercial hunting and trade in bushmeat at selected sites, in order to understand the socio-economic dimension of this traffic and its impact on wildlife. We have also conducted similar surveys on the use of other forest resources such as various plants and trees, which provide substantial income for local communities. Such community input can help us determine how to balance conservation and local livelihoods when developing plans for protected areas.

In partnership with the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and CAMRAIL, WCS plays a critical role in training ecoguards and leading education programs to ensure enforcement of regulations that ban the use of railways to transport bushmeat and other wildlife products. This effort in part has helped Cameroon uphold its obligations as a member nation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

From the Newsroom

Battling the Bushmeat TradeAugust 22, 2011

This investigative piece from CNN focuses on the growing and illegal commercial trade of bushmeat in Cameroon, and features a WCS conservationist who is working to help the country combat it.

Wanted: Tougher Enforcement Against Wildlife CrimeJuly 27, 2011

As organized crime steps up its game in wildlife trade, a WCS conservationist suggests fighting back through increased law enforcement and better use of resources.

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