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Gorillas and Chimpanzees are Endangered by the Illegal Bushmeat Trade

Updated on June 20, 2017

The bushmeat trade is an "imminent threat to the survival of great apes in Africa." Dr. Jane Goodall

Help Jane Goodall fight the illegal bushmeat trade!
Help Jane Goodall fight the illegal bushmeat trade! | Source

How the Bushmeat Trade Exploits Endangered Animals & Indigenous People

"How serious is the problem? The commercial hunting of bushmeat could well lead to the loss of several species, including chimpanzees, gorillas & elephants." Dr. Jane Goodall

You may have heard the term "bushmeat". This term is used to describe the meat of any wild animal living in the forest in Africa. Eating bushmeat is a cultural tradition for the native people of the African forests. Practiced as it had been for centuries, it posed little or no threat to the population of wild animals. However, with the introduction of commercial logging, bushmeat hunting has taken a nasty turn and gone commercial, too. Logging destroys habitat for both wildlife and indigenous people and opens up formerly unreachable wild areas to commercial bushmeat hunters. This threat is particularly dire for primates, whose populations were already dwindling. According to Dr. Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee population in the wild in Africa has dropped from one to two million in 1900 to a mere 150,000 today. While that may still seem like a lot of chimps to the average person, it is actually a very alarming decline. With habitat rapidly disappearing and the existing population being actively reduced, it will take very little time for those 150,000 chimps to become none. The fact is that of all the primates on earth, human beings are the only ones whose existence is not threatened, and all the others are threatened by human activities.

Logging Displaces Native People & Wildlife

Photographer: Ana_Cotta: Attribution License:
Photographer: Ana_Cotta: Attribution License:

Commercial Logging Means Loss of Habitat for Wildlife & Indigenous People

Commercial logging companies disrupt habitat for wildlife and indigenous people by plowing roads into the thickest parts of the forest. They set up a situation in which the local people have no choice for survival but to join those working for the logging companies. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) the logging companies compound the problem by supporting the bushmeat trade that destroys food that was previously freely available to the indigenous people. This makes their traditional food available only through purchase on the black market. As soon as a logging company forces a new road into the forest, the commercial bushmeat hunters are there, slaughtering the wildlife. They set up stands along the newly established roadsides to sell the carcasses. The logging settlements create a quick and easy market for the sale of the slaughtered animals. Logging company employees use logging trucks to haul the dead bodies off to the meat market. When approached by officials to seek cooperation in stopping this practice, logging companies claim that they are unable to stop it because the availability of meat and money are too much temptation for their employees, who are often the original inhabitants of the destroyed forest, forced by circumstance to play this deadly game.

Logging Trucks Haul Logs & Illegal Bushmeat

Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff  Attribution License:
Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff Attribution License:

Commercial Logging & The Illegal Bush Meat Trade Go Hand-In-Hand

According to HSUS, logging companies are well known for not providing adequate food for their employees in the logging settlements. Instead, they provide guns and ammunition to hold organized hunts to slaughter the local fauna. Loggers are forced to depend almost entirely on these hunts to get enough food to survive. Logging settlements often have as many as 4000 residents, so the amount of bushmeat they can consume is staggering. Animals hunted for bushmeat include many species. Not all of them are endangered, but that is a condition that is changeable and changing. The more an animal population is slaughtered, the more endangered it becomes. While primates make up a relatively small percentage of the animals slaughtered for bushmeat, the fact that their populations are already dwindling dramatically makes these losses devastating to the remaining population. Regardless of the fact that the great apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, and bonobos) are protected under national law, the logging companies continue to allow and even support commercial hunting of them. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) states that several thousand lowland gorillas are killed every year for bush meat. According to The Bushmeat Project, up to 8,000 endangered great apes are killed annually for the bushmeat trade. Furthermore, the Bushmeat Project states on its website that more great apes are eaten by human beings than are kept in the total of zoos and labs around the world. Information found at their website indicates that if the slaughter continues as it has, there will be no more wild apes within the 15 - 50 years' time. It is easy to see that the bushmeat trade is a terrible blow to the already endangered status of our closest wild cousins.

Mature Silverbacks Bring A High Price As Meat

Photographer: Chris Barber: Attribution License:
Photographer: Chris Barber: Attribution License:

Troop Patriarchs Are Targeted

The death of an individual gorilla is a terrible blow to the general population, and it is even worse for the troop in which that gorilla lived. It is well-known and well-documented that mature, male silverbacks are the foundation of their troops. They guide and protect the females, infants, and lesser males. These large mature males are greatly sought out by poachers and commercial hunters because their large size means that they will bring a large price at the meat market. When a silverback is killed, his troop is left devastated and unprotected. They become easy targets for aggression from other primates - including man.  

Mothers & Infants May Be Killed Together

Photographer: vortistic: Attribution License:
Photographer: vortistic: Attribution License:

Mothers Are Killed & Infants Are Orphaned

Often mothers and infants are slaughtered together, but when the infant is spared, her fate may be worse than if she had been killed. She may be caged and taken to market to be killed and eaten later. She may be sold as a "pet". She may simply be chained until she dies. Indeed, WSPA investigators report often seeing young chimps and baby gorillas in chains in the logging settlements. If sold as a "pet" a young chimp or gorilla fetches only $100 in the marketplace according to HSUS. This is a pitiful price for the life and dignity of one of these noble creatures. It is a terrible fate for our closest wild cousins. They do not take well to being raised in captivity. When they become too big and difficult to control, they are often euthanized or put in a sanctuary. Even though sanctuaries are safe and pleasant places, they are not freedom. A chimp or gorilla that has been separated from its own kind is doomed to a life dependent on humans.

To Be Sold As Pets Or Meat

Photographer: hagit: Attribution License: stock.xchng Image License Agreement.
Photographer: hagit: Attribution License: stock.xchng Image License Agreement.

Of Interest

What Is Being Done? What Can Be Done?

Even in the rare cases when the logging companies might cooperate with efforts to stop the illegal commercial bushmeat trade, HSUS reports that they are actually somewhat lacking in the resources to follow through. The African government is also short of resources. It will be important for interested parties worldwide to become involved in putting an end to the wholesale slaughter of African wildlife, primates, and especially the great apes. To this end, a number of agencies have allied to create and implement some solutions. For example, in 1996 the Bushmeat Project, the WSPA, Ape Alliance, and the Humane Society of the United States worked with the European Parliament and a French-owned ammunition manufacturer to put an end to production of a specific type of ammunition in west-central Africa. Because of this effort, cartridges that are powerful enough to kill an adult male gorilla can no longer be manufactured in this region. This agreement sharply curtails the availability of the main type of ammunition that had been used to kill large, protected game like gorillas and elephants.  

4000 Loggers Consume A Great Deal of Bushmeat

Logging Camp in the Congo -Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff  Attribution License:
Logging Camp in the Congo -Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff Attribution License:

In the future efforts must be made to achieve the following:

1. Logging companies must be held accountable for their support of the bushmeat trade.

2. Logging companies must be made to provide proper nutrition for the residents of their logging settlements.

3. Penalties must be put into place and implemented against anyone supporting or participating in the bushmeat trade. This must include not only the hunting of endangered species, but also trading in any product made from endangered species. Furthermore, it must be made illegal to harbor people involved in the killing of endangered species or to hold or transport the bodies or body parts of endangered species.

4. The indigenous people and the logging company workers (often one and the same) must be educated as to the importance of preserving and protecting endangered species. Often these people are victims of the ravages brought about by commercial logging themselves. They are simply struggling to survive and do not understand the long term implications of their actions.

5. Tourists and travelers must staunchly refuse to eat bushmeat or to patronize establishments that serve it. Remember that bushmeat is not just the meat of apes, but also of other wild animals, especially those that are endangered. Also, travelers should note any animal cruelty they witness and report it to local authorities and to the embassy of the country in which they are traveling. Regardless of the fact that this cruelty may be viewed as culturally acceptable, it is important to let the authorities know that it is not universally acceptable.

Copyright:SuzanneBennett:January 16, 2009

The Devastating Effects Of Commercial Logging

Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff  Attribution License:
Photographer: World Resources Institute Staff Attribution License:

"I am outraged by the killing of chimpanzees and other imperiled wildlife species for the commercial bushmeat trade—a shortsighted and cruel practice that is pushing great apes and other endangered species to the brink of extinction." ~ Jane Goodall

"Partnerships will achieve greater results than acting independently." ~ Jane Goodall

The Bushmeat Trade Exploits The Helpless

Fruit bats packed in a bamboo crate for an arduous 4-day journey to market without food or water.
Fruit bats packed in a bamboo crate for an arduous 4-day journey to market without food or water. | Source

More About The Great Apes

An excellent overview of the great ape dilemma...


Submit a Comment

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

    Thanks Peggy! :)

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Suzanne,

    Going to give this article of yours a tweet. It needs to be shared!

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

    Thank you! :)

  • profile image

    Paula Rosa 4 years ago

    Such an important subject - it needs all the awareness building campaigns it can get. Well done.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    I hope so also Suzanne.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

    Many thanks! Killing primates for meat is a hairs-breadth (if that) from cannibalism. It is a practice that MUST stop!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Devastation is a good word for this. Logging in rain forests is never good because the soil is poor and does not sustain many other long lived crops and then we lose more life giving oxygen for our planet. Killing off primates for meat is also unsustainable as you have demonstrated with your statistics. Those are alarming numbers! Hopefully people will become educated to these facts. You have done your part in writing this informative hub. Voted up, useful and will pin and share.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

    Thank you for your kind words! I hope you will visit Jane Goodall's site and look into things you can do to help. I think she has developed the most effective plan for dealing with this devastation.

  • Cindy Letchworth profile image

    Cindy Letchworth 9 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

    The statistics are alarming. The logging is awful. The killings heart breaking. Thanks for your insightful piece.

  • profile image

    ColdWarBaby 9 years ago

    Knowledge is power.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

    Yes, big corporations have us in a throttle hold. It is so easy to convince people that they must buy, consume and possess things. Fortunately, a few are moving away from this. Christoph Reilly has a good HUB on Freeganism that I really like.

    It is hard to keep up with the offenders. They have just spent the last 8 years pillaging our country. Now they are off turning the Chinese into mega consumers, and I hear of the seeds of the problems we now experience being sown in their soil every day.

    But, Jane Goodall has the right idea. Just keep working at educating people and making them aware. It is the only way to make true progress.

  • profile image

    ColdWarBaby 9 years ago

    This is an incredibly comprehensive job! Extremely well done.

    I would ask all to consider what is the actual root cause of this situation and others like it.

    I will offer my opinion for what it's worth.


    It all begins when someone decides there is a dollar to be made through the exploitation of someone else's resources.

    In other words capitalism, the essence of which can be distilled down to three words, Buy or Die.

    Until we choose another paradigm upon which to base our "civilization" and I use the term loosely, what we'll get is what we've got.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas


    It is not necessary to choose between dealing with the root of a problem and dealing with the constellation of problems that surround it. Indeed, to do so is foolhardy.

    If you have a leak in a water pipe in your wall, you replace the pipe AND you replace the water damaged wood, and fix the wall so that it is once again aesthetically pleasing. If you just fix the pipe, you are inviting dry rot and compromising the structural integrity of your home. If you don't restore the wall to it's former attractiveness, you are cheating yourself and lowering the value of your home.

    It is the same thing here. Yes, people need to make wise life choices to bring our population under control, AND we need to take care of the problems that have been created by overpopulation.

    It would be ideal if the logging companies had never gone into the Congo. Then the rainforests would be pristine, the animals undisturbed, and the indigenous people would have their culture intact. But that is not the case. Instead, a huge problem has been created that will eventually affect us all. It needs to be dealt with in the here and now.

    The culture of the indigenous people has already been disrupted by the logging companies. The choice we have now is to compassionately intervene (as the Jane Goodall Foundation is doing) to educate the people regarding this new and baffling set of circumstances and to try to negotiate with the logging companies. Or, we can ignore it because we think that the indigenous people shouldn't be interfered with and thereby allow them to interfered with and hoodwinked by the logging companies.

    The problem is big, but it is not too big to be tackled. I strongly urge people who are concerned about this situation to support the Jane Goodall Foundation. The foundation is taking positive, measurable steps to resolve this problem.

    Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.



  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

    Suzanne, I commend you for your decision and your dedication!

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas


    I don't think we can get the loggers out of the rainforest. I do think that they need to be held accountable for their actions and some limits need to be put in place and the people and animals and land they are exploiting needs to be protected. They are counting on being big and going fast in an area where people are at a loss for what to do. Steps need to be taken to get them in check.

    Yes, I agree. Human overpopulation is at the root of all of our problems. I believe it should be controlled. That is why I have chosen to have no children and to work instead with those who are already here and are in need.

    Thank you for your comment.


  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

    Suzanne, I appreciate your can-do attitude. I agree that it would be a very positive step to get loggers out of the rain forest. But greed is hard to check except through force. And force is a double-edged sword.

    Have you read my hub about bread? In it I mention the one solution that I think could save the planet: a limit on human population growth. It's all a matter of proportions. When we are few, and the trees and other animals are many, then cutting down a tree when we need some wood isn't that big a deal. When we are many and the trees are few, the situation is completely different.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

    Hi Aya,

    I am a fan of Diane Fossey, too! Unfortunately, she is no longer with us to be able to help us right now! I agree with you about education of the local people generally, but what I am mostly referring to is programs that transform poachers into game wardens, Roots & Shoots that educates children around the world about the importance of conservation, and especially just simple things like the distribution of the book KOKO'S KITTEN in Africa . This single act apparently transformed quite a few people's thnking regarding gorillas.

    I think creating healthy living arrangements outside of their native habitat is a good idea, but some forest in Africa must be conserved for the good of the world. We can't allow the rainforests to be clearcut. The consequences would be devastating for everyone, everywhere. Africa needs to have protected spaces and wildlife habitat just as much as we and the rest of the world do!

    The main point regarding the connection between logging and the bushmeat trade is that the logging industry seems to be trying to pass it off as an inevitable consequence over which they have no control. Actually, it seems they instigate it and support it and are trying to wipe out the animals in the forests to make it easier to rape the land. And of course, as long as they support it, they feed their workers free and rake in even more profits. They are taking advantage of the very "ethos of plenty" you mention. The people feel there is plenty. It seems there is plenty. They are certainly able to kill lots of animals. That situation has to stop. The logging companies must be held accountable and made to provide their workers with appropriate wages and food. That is one step on a long, long road.

    Because I have made tremendous changes and strides in my own life by taking incremental steps, I am a big believer in the value and eventual victory of that process. The logging companies want to seem as if they are unbeatable, but they are not.

    Every person is important, and every person can make a difference. No one of us can do it all, but anyone who cares about this situation should support the efforts to combat it.



  • Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

    JustMeSuzanne, it is very depressing, and that's why I didn't leave a comment the first time I came here. I don't believe that foreign charitable organizations in Africa can have much positive impact, without the support of local people and local governments. We can't dictate to others how to run their countries, and I don't think anything can be done without having a major army backing you up.

    I am more of a fan of Diane Fossey's than Jane Goodall's, but ultimately, I don't think this is a fight any outsider can win. "Educating" local people often means indoctrinating them into our way of thinking, and by the time you do that, you destroy everything that is strong and beautiful about local culture.

    The fact is that neither chimpanzees nor local people are "conservationists" at heart. They live in an ethos of plenty, and without modern technology ravaging the land, there still would be plenty.

    That's why the last, best hope for the great apes is to find healthy living arrangements outside their native habitat. This does not mean what we currently have in American chimpanzee sanctuaries, where they are prohibited from reproducing.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

    Thanks! I just love it that GoogleAdSense put an ad for logging jobs on this page! Makes sense to me!

  • Melissa G profile image

    Melissa G 9 years ago from Tempe, AZ

    Oh yeah, I remember this one... I originally skipped over it not because of the length, but because it's a subject that makes me sad and angry, not simply because people are killing and eating the animals and cutting down all the trees, but also because they lack other, more sustainable sources of food and income. With that said, I think you did a great job of setting forth very reasonable guidelines to help curb this problem. Great job!

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

    Yes, indeed!

  • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

    Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

    Such a sad prospect for the Great Apes, (amongst other species). I just hope this is stopped before it is too late for them. 15 - 20 years will go by very quickly.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas


    Actually, the Jane Goodall Institute is making the most progress by simply educating the public. Getting the logging companies to provide food to their workers would be another big step toward dramatically reducing the bushmeat trade.

  • profile image

    C. C. Riter 9 years ago

    Wow! You put out a great informative hub here, and I know this took some research for you to do such a great job. Keep it up.

    But alas, I feel with the economy in such a mess the monies are not going to be available for helping this situation for some time. Too bad.

    thanx Suzanne


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