WCS launches new program aimed at reducing unsustainable hunting overseas

May 10, 2002

The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has launched a new program aimed at eliminating unsustainable hunting overseas, calling it the single greatest threat to wildlife in tropical forests today.

The program, already active in 22 tropical forest countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, works with local people, the private sector and government agencies to reduce hunting to sustainable levels.

"Unsustainable hunting for almost anything large enough to be eaten, potent enough to be turned into medicine, and lucrative enough to be sold, is stripping wildlife from wild areas, leaving empty forest shells and an unnatural quiet," said Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, who directs the new program for WCS.

A 1999 WCS study, published in the journal Science, documented that more than one million metric tons of wild meat (commonly called "bushmeat") was coming out of Africa's tropical forests each year. According to WCS, a further part of the dilemma is that tropical forest peoples across the globe still depend on wildlife for much of their protein. Therefore, methods must be created to ensure their protein supply, as well as conservation of the wildlife on which their way of life depends.

To that end, WCS is helping develop community programs that examine which species are being hunted, and the dependence of hunted wildlife on local diets - and economies. Researchers are also working closely with local people to develop no-hunting zones in certain areas, and education programs.

To reduce hunting in logging concessions - a leading cause in the decline of wildlife in many regions - WCS is working with timber companies in Congo Republic, Gabon, Cambodia and Sarawak to prevent logging roads from becoming "wildlife highways" to transport wild meat. WCS also helps develop joint programs that prohibit hunting of endangered species in logging areas, while supplying hunters with alternative protein sources, rather than wild game.

On a governmental level, WCS is assisting in policy initiatives to control unsustainable hunting. In Sarawak, WCS helped develop a sweeping law that banned all commercial hunting, but allowed local hunters to continue to harvest wild game for their own consumption. Besides the ban, the law strictly controls issuing of shotguns and cartridges, and contains an extensive education program for local people. WCS is also a member of the Bushmeat Crisis Taskforce, a consortium of organizations working to bring this vital issue to the forefront of conservation.

"Unsustainable hunting and wildlife trade not only gravely threatens wildlife, it also jeopardizes the lifestyles, health and cultural well-being of people in tropical forests around the world," said Dr. Bennett. "We must expand this program if we are to ensure the survival of wildlife and wild lands, as well as prevent human malnutrition and cultural degradation in tropical forest countries across the globe."

Wildlife Conservation Society

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