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Bushmeat and logging

‘Bushmeat’ is the name given to wild animals that are killed for food. Bushmeat can mean any wild-caught meat, from lizards to primates.

For centuries wildlife has provided a vital source of nutrition for people, from the Inuit in the Arctic Circle to forest dwellers in Africa, but it is recognised that the commercial hunting practised today (most of which is illegal) is causing the rapid decline in the populations of many species. This is now well documented, especially in Africa.

Africa is a huge continent and home to an extraordinary variety of animals, including many of the worlds' best loved and well known large land mammals.

Why has bushmeat become a problem?

The extraction of timber from the forests has a variety of knock-on effects. For example, roads and timber company trucks have enabled poachers to enter deeper into the forest and provide export routes for much larger quantities of bushmeat which is sold in towns and cities. Quite often it is also sent abroad for sale, smuggled through Customs in suitcases.

This isn't subsistence hunting for indigenous people in the forest but a national and an international commercial trade that involves markets and restaurants in cities as far afield as Europe and the United States – indeed, gorilla meat has even been found on the menu in a Swiss restaurant.

What about the people who rely on it for subsistence?

Until recently people would kill rabbits and birds for food, and many people still go fishing. This could be called bushmeat too.

There are laws that protect all rare and endangered species, and these need to be enforced. This will allow some legal bushmeat hunting to continue, but in a sustainable way.

Ultimately this is an extremely important issue for poorer Africans who rely on bushmeat for essential protein. If bushmeat resources are not protected and properly managed, this protein resource will eventually disappear and many more people would find themselves in situations of hunger and famine.

What is logging?

People have been using wood in their buildings, homes, and for other purposes - like boat building, for thousands of years. Wood is also an important source of fuel, and trees are cut down to allow people to farm the land.

Why is it a problem?

In recent centuries, people have become more voracious in their demand for wood - especially hard woods, which are very durable. An example is the development of the railway network in Britain during the British Empire. Hardwoods were needed for railway sleepers, and as local forest resources had been depleted during the era of shipbuilding in the previous century, companies had to look elsewhere - abundantly forested areas like Malaysia and Belize were chosen and deals were made to extract teak, for use all over the empire.

Since the end of the second world war, mechanization and increasingly efficient power tools have escalated the loss of forest.

Other reasons for clearing land of trees - for farming, particularly for cash crops and ranching, and for mineral and oil extraction have also been led by businesses seeking to make profits, and with an ever-rising growth in consumer demand, have been responsible for an unprecedented loss of habitat and species.

Local forest dwellers also suffer, as their livelihoods are stripped away - they will not only use the trees for shelter, but also for food (fruit and nuts) and medicines.

This is an incredibly complex and multi-layered conservation issue, and there is no one answer to the problem. But with enough support from governments and the public, and hard campaigning by organisations, we might be able to make a difference.

What can be done?

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993 to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.

The Forest Stewardship Council has introduced an international labelling scheme for forest products, which provides a credible guarantee for the consumer that the product comes from a well-managed forest.

All forest products carrying the logo have been independently certified as coming from forests that meet the internationally recognized FSC Principles. Certified forests are visited on a regular basis to check standards are being attained.