File on 4 Radio 4
Date & time
Tuesday 26th October 2004† 2000
Subject / interviewee
Bush meat - Dr Yunes Teinaz, Justice Nyo Matteus Dingha, Harry, Efanwť, Tafon Babilla Godwin, Doctor Glyn Davies, Richard Robinson, Sarah Appleby, Elliot Morley MP, Clive Lawrence, Detective Chief Inspector Will OíReilly & Assistant Professor Nathan Wolfe
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Doctor Yunes Teinaz (Environmental Health Officer):† Tell me what youíve got.† Have you got any monkey in there?
Shopkeeper:† No, no.
YT:† In the freezer?
YT:† You donít do monkey?
Angus Stickler:† Doctor Yunes Teinaz, an Environmental Health Officer, raids an archway shop front in Hackney, East London, a market where the flesh of wild animals from West and Central Africa has been sold as food.†
File on 4 investigates the slaughter and sale of endangered species from the forests of Cameroon to the tabletops of Britain.† Itís a story of poverty, organised crime and slaughter; a trade with the potential to spread deadly disease; a trade which Governments here and abroad seem either unwilling or unable to stop.
Justice Nyo Matteus Dingha (Senior Magistrate, Cameroon):† Hundreds of tonnes of bush meat entering into the human food chain, smuggled illegally without any Public Health control and it is also sated with prostitution, child smuggling, drugs.† What else do we want to see before they take stronger action?
AS:† This is Yaoundť, the capital of Cameroon.† The people of this Central African nation struggle to survive.† Theyíre poor and bush meat is traditionally part of their diet.† Antelope, rodents, elephant and monkey are openly on sale here and thereís a daily supply.
Every day the main line express train from North Cameroon arrives here at Yaoundť Central Station.† Itís packed, but a few miles up the road bag after bag are thrown from carriages.† The train slows down and passengers jump off; they gather their luggage.† These people are on their way to market: the bush meat markets of Cameroon.† And just one hundred yards from the station itself, on a long line of ramshackled stores, traders display their wares.†
We met up with workers of the Last Great Ape project, or LAGA for short.† Itís a small charity, which is trying to put a stop to the sale of endangered species.† Harry, one of its members walked me through the throng of the market.† For our own protection we used a hidden microphone.† The sound may be slightly distorted.
Harry:† Here they are so hostile.
AS:† So we have to be careful here?
Harry:† Very careful.
AS:† So as weíre walking past here Ö
Harry:† This is elephant skin.
AS:† Thatís elephant skin there?
AS:† But do the people here know that elephants are endangered species?
Harry:† They do and yet the only means for them to live.
AS:† Overlooked by the huge, modern, presidential palace Yaoundť feels like one large shantytown.† Thereís a few ugly concrete tower blocks scattered in the centre but in the streets market traders sit in the dirt hawking their wares.† Everybody is selling, few are buying.† Anything and everything is for sale.
We went to another market.† Again we had to use a hidden microphone.
Weíve got what: one, two, three, four monkeys, four, four whole monkeys there.
Harry:† There are five whole monkeys.
AS:† Five whole monkeys is it?† And theyíre black and theyíre smoked?
AS:† So they, they cut the monkey in half?
Harry:† Itís his job to fold it back.† The only thing which is not ate is the internal organ. Apart from that you can see it.
AS:† How much is for these monkeys?
Harry:† Two thousand five hundred.† Thatís two, two pounds.
AS:† Two pounds fifty?
AS:† Itís swarming with flies here.† Is this safe to eat?
Harry:† When it does look like this itís difficult for microbe to penetrate.
AS:† This is the stark reality of the bush meat trade and LAGA is one of the few organisations trying to bring the traders to book.† It's largely staffed by volunteers, local people with a fervent commitment to their cause.† They scour the markets looking for endangered species, animals like gorilla and chimpanzee.† These are the big prize.† Their flesh is an expensive, much sought after delicacy.† Itís used at banquets and in rituals.
Efanwť, like Harry, works under cover.† She explained how she infiltrated a group of poachers trying to sell gorillas.† She was taken to someoneís hut to broker the deal.
Efanwť:† I couldnít see because of the smoke so I had to wait.† When the smoke went out then I saw these two gorillas clinging to each other and running away, crying, because when they see somebody coming they, they are scared.† And they were all babies, very small, about two, three months, I donít know.† We went back to the sitting room to bid the price and finally we ended.† They said they canít give it for less than a hundred thousand francs.
AS:† Thatís a hundred pounds?
Efanwť:† A hundred pounds, yeah, for the two.
AS:† Efanwť rescued the two baby gorillas despite considerable risks.
Efanwť:† If these people find out that you are not a buyer and are you a spy they will squeeze your neck there and then and they will bury you dead.† Your family will not even know.† It is a source of living.† If you tamper with it they kill you, they eliminate you to, to have their oxygen.
AS:† This is the Mefou Reserve in the forests of Cameroon.† Here orphan chimpanzees and gorillas live in massive two thousand- hectare compounds.† Itís one of only a few truly safe havens in Cameroon, protected by soldiers, paid for by charity, part-funded by Bristol Zoo.†
Tafon Babilla Godwin is the chief veterinarian here.
Tafon Babilla Godwin (Chief Veterinarian, Mefou Reserve):† We got hunters.† They go to the bush; they kill the mother of these animal.† So they get now the infant.† They take it to other people around town to sell it as live animal for them to, to get it a spit.
AS:† And what sort of condition are the animals in when they come to you?
TBG:† They are very, very stressed.† They have presence of wounds, sometimes with bullet.
AS:† And what about actually trying to get them back into the wild?
TBG:† Generally that is actually the main role of the project but for the meantime much has not been done on that.† We cannot send them back for hunters to hunt them and as soon as we got an area which is protected, and weíre sure about it, we are going to release this animal.
AS:† There are places which are meant to be protected areas already.† Yet you seem to be saying that youíre going to keep the animals here rather than introducing them back to the wild because theyíre just going to get hunted.
TBG:† There are some clandestine hunting, poaching still going on in areas like that.† So we are not comfortable using areas like that because we are not quite sure it is protected.
AS:† Itís the crack of dawn and weíve set out for the lowland forest deep into South East Cameroon: the Dja Reserve, home of the great apes.
It takes only a day to get here and thatís thanks to these thundering great trucks and their hardwood cargo.† The largely European owned logging companies have calved roads deep into the forest.† These red dirt track carriageways are hardly autobahn but they open up otherwise inaccessible parts of the jungle.
Every three or four miles there are small villages, wattle and daub mud huts with raffia palm leaf roofs.† Smoke ekes out of the rafters.† This is where the pygmy hunters live.† Posing as white men wanting to hunt gorilla weíve come to try and see how easy it is to strike a deal.
For the gorillaís head and hands, how much is it going to cost us?
Translator:† They are ready to provide all the skull, the palm and legs free of charge provided we give them the bullets.† The meat they consume, eat themselves.† To be sure you go they need about ten of that cartridge at eight hundred francs, a price to kill one and bring for you.
AS:† Why does it need so much ammunition?
Translator:† They were wild animals.† To kill them we need very serious fight with them.† You can shoot one bullet, five bullet to kill him.† Heís crying like a Buddha.† If you donít have courage you cannot attack it.† Take courage, you kill it and you come back home with it.
AS:† How many gorillas has he killed?
Translator:† We have killed so many gorillas we cannot tell exactly how many.
AS:† These people live in abject poverty.† They didnít want money.† They wanted food and ammunition to hunt.† They eat gorilla, chimpanzee, whatever they can kill.† Bush meat accounts for ninety five per cent of their protein requirement.† Itís their staple diet.
Weíve driven back to the nearest town, Abongbang.† This small, anarchic place has a real sense of a frontier town.† On one side of the main thoroughfare thereís a market; again bush meat for sale, laid on the floor in the dirt seven recently slaughtered monkeys.† Itís swarming with flies.† Down a dark alley just in front of me thereís another stall selling steaks, not beef but drill, an extremely rare member of the baboon family.† On the other side of the road, nestled between two bars, is a gun shop.
Had weíd wanted to we could have met up with the pygmies.† In some ways there is a sense that weíve let them down.† A kill, the torso of a gorilla would have fed them for days.
The problem is not the pygmies hunting for food, it is the commercial trade.† The hunters are exploited, paid a pittance.† Theyíre at the bottom of a money grabbing chain.
Doctor Glyn Davies is Director of Conservation Programmes at the Zoological Society of London.
Doctor Glyn Davies (Director, Conservation Programmes, Zoological Society of London):† I, I think the whole discussion about bush meat runs the risk of trying to generalise when itís a mistake.† Thereís a range of activities.† You have villagers who during the hungry season desperately need some money and over a couple of month period will go out and shoot things to try and get some cash in.† You have people whoíve left jobs in the cities but they have a little bit of cash and then they arrange a local gang, probably their relatives, to go out and hunt and try and make some money that way.
And then in the big cities you have kind of commercial people, often called ďcash mamasĒ who have lots of money, and they will just pay for trucks to go out.† A thirty tonne lorry will park in an area of two or three weeks.† They will trap and shoot everything out, smoke it, stick it on the lorry and bring it in.
AS:† How big is the bush meat trade in West Central Africa?
GD:† Itís enormous and people working in the region have noticed a massive increase in the last ten to twenty years.† Scaling up to the sort of West Africa Congo Basin region it could be as much as five million tonnes per year being consumed and traded.
AS:† Traded to devastating effect.† The population of chimpanzees in the wild has fallen from two million a century ago to just a hundred and ten thousand, barely sustainable.† The great apes are being eaten to extinction and this trade extends beyond Africa to Europe and the street markets, the backroom stores of London.
Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Hackney.† Itís reminiscent in some ways to the markets of Cameroon.† You have to squeeze through the throng.† The stalls and archway stores cater for the tastes of the local community.† Boxes of yams piled high imported from Ghana, racks of brown dried fish, plantains.† You can buy virtually anything here, and until recently that included the flesh of gorilla.
Richard Robinson (Principal Environmental Health Officer, London Borough of Hackney):† A colleague on a routine visit to Ridley Road Market, into one of the shops, noticed a sign advertising bush meat for sale and among the items that was on the price list was gorilla and tiger, another endangered species.
AS:† Richard Robinson is Principal Environmental Health Officer for the London Borough of Hackney.† He accompanied police and Customs on a raid.
RR:† We found a quantity of antelope, monkey and gorilla which were confirmed the speciation from the DNA.† Most of it was stored in a tatty freezer out the back, which I wouldnít have used for keeping dog food in.
AS:† Could you actually tell you were looking at bits of monkey, bits of gorilla, bits of antelope?† What did the meat look like?
RR:† Well certainly some of the, the monkey was quite obvious because it was a whole monkey.† The antelope just, it could have been any deer or venison.† I wouldnít have known it from, for what it was.† What was pointed out to me as gorilla was just a very, very dark meat with dark fur on it.
AS:† It still had the fur on?
RR:† It still had the fur on, yeah.
AS:† This was one of the first bush meat cases to come before a British court.† The two shopkeepers were jailed for four months for trading in endangered species.† But this wasnít a one off.† In neighbouring Haringey in January of this year Paulina Pepra from Ghana was jailed for three months for selling produce unfit for human consumption.† Two tonnes of rotting meat was seized from her shop.† It included the carcasses of grass cutters, rodents the size of a large rabbit.† Now, following publicity surrounding these cases, market traders are more wary.† But it doesnít mean bush meat is not for sale.
Doctor Yunes Teinaz:† How are you sir, alright?
YT:† My nameís Doctor Teinaz.† Iím from London Borough of Hackney.
Shopkeeper:† I know you, I know you.
YT:† Just on a few visit to see what you have.† Can we go in?
Shopkeeper:† Yeah, you are free to go in.
AS:† We accompanied Hackney Environmental Health Officer, Doctor Yunes Teinaz, on his surprise inspection of one of the archway shops in Ridley Road Market.† He believed bush meat may be for sale hidden in a backroom freezer.
YT:† Tell me what youíve got.† Have you got any grass cutters also?
Shopkeeper:† No I donít.
YT:† You donít sell grass cutter or Ö?
YT:† Any monkey meat?
Shopkeeper:† No, no.
YT:† In the freezer?
Shopkeeper:† No, no.
YT:† You donít do monkey?
Shopkeeper:† They grand people donít know a larder.† Iím very sure.
YT:† Yeah!† So I would like to see that freezer there.† If you move the stuff out for me I like to inspect the freezer please.
What is this?† Iím asking you what is this?
Shopkeeper:† Itís not grass cutter.
YT:† I donít notice grass cutter.† What is this?
Shopkeeper:† Itís cow food now.
YT:† Yeah, now this is a cowhide.† This is illegally imported cowhide.† You know is not legal to sell in this country.
Shopkeeper:† They are not selling here.
YT:† Then what you have it here for: decoration?† Sir this is, could be kind of bush meat here.
Shopkeeper:† Itís not bush meat.
YT:† What is it then?
Shopkeeper:† Itís not bush meat.
YT:† What is it?
Shopkeeper:† Is snail, itís not bush meat.
YT:† I need to investigate therefore and due to the fact that they are rock frozen I need to defrost them and see what we have.
AS:† Thereís a cockroach there so it, itís not particularly hygienic here and the, the freezer is disgusting.
YT:† Sir you donít have all the cockroaches here sir.† Youíve got rat infestation.† You need to close and you need to clean up the shop, right?
AS:† The meat Doctor Teinaz seized was sent away for analysis. †Heís still awaiting the results.† There were small lumps of what looked like blackened gristle in plastic bags.† Also the skin of a cow smuggled from Africa, a common dish.† The snails were not escargot but giant African land snails, again smuggled from the continent.† The condition this food was kept in was atrocious.† The half-defrosted freezer was covered in grime; it stank.† And Richard Robinson from Hackney Environmental Health says this is all too common.
Richard Robinson:† We have found it on sale to some extent or other in almost every West African shop in the area.† We were finding forty, fifty kilos at a premises at a time.† You could go back a month later and see exactly the same amount again.† Itís huge business.
AS:† Because of the action Hackney has taken the trade has moved under the counter, the meat stored in different locations.† If you know the right people itís readily available.† And despite the all too obvious health risks from poor hygiene Richard Robinson also believes bush meat itself poses a threat to those who eat it.
RR:† There is a, a whole list of infectious diseases that potentially are being spread.† Very little workís been done to find out what is actually being brought in on these animals.† And the bacteria and viruses will survive in a viable state all the way through till theyíre delivered in this country.
The other health risk is actually from the way some of these animals are killed, particularly the grass cutters.† A frequent way of killing grass cutters is poisoning with strychnine and if you go and check with the health authorities in Nigeria and Ghana you will find that they have thousands of deaths from strychnine poisoning, from eating grass cutters.
AS:† And that same strychnine is being brought over here to these shores?
RR:† Yes, cause strychnine is cheap, very easy way to kill rodents.† And they donít care if, who theyíre poisoning.† What they want is the money.
AS:† In July 2002 the House of Commons Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a report into illegal meat imports.† It was as a response to the outbreaks of swine fever in 2000 and of foot and mouth disease in 2001.† It recommended that the Food Standards Agency, the Government body responsible for protecting public health, assessed the risk posed by illegal meat smuggled into the country, including bush meat.
Sarah Appleby is Head of Food Imports.
Sarah Appleby (Head of Food Imports):† The Agency has looked at the risk to public health from bush meat but we haven't identified any particular problems with eating bush meat, or bush meat being the cause of serious food-born illness in the UK.
AS:† Have you actually tested the meat thatís coming in?
SA:† Well one of the problems is that if meat comes into the country illegally then itís not allowed to be tested; it must be destroyed straight away.
AS:† How can you say youíve done a risk assessment when you havenít even tested the meat?
SA:† Well, certainly weíve, weíve got a, a fair view of the sorts of diseases that might be spread through meat, whether itís things like salmonella, those types of things, and tried to identify particular problems associated with, with illegal imports of meat.
AS:† Some of these animals are killed with poison such as strychnine.† That could be passed on in the food chain couldnít it?
SA:† We have strict rules about meat production to ensure that legal imported meat is fit to eat and when the controls arenít in place, such as youíre saying with strychnine and things like that, there are risks.† And, and this applies to any imports.
AS:† But this is an issue that not only puts the health of humans at risk, illegal meat imports are a major threat to our domestic livestock too.† The foot and mouth outbreak devastated the farming community in the UK.† The clean-up operation cost eight point four billion pounds.† Itís now accepted that smuggled meat was the most likely cause.† Following a Government review responsibility for illegal meat imports was handed was from Port Health Authorities to Customs.† The Government invested an extra twenty-five million pounds over three years, providing four new mobile anti-smuggling teams and six sniffer dogs.† There are more on the way.† The number of seizures has more than doubled to nearly sixteen thousand.† It sounds good, that is until you put these figures in context.†
Heathrow Airport: there are four terminals here alone.† These new anti-smuggling teams have to service every air and sea port in the land, small or large.† Last year they seized just over one half of one per cent of the twelve thousand tonnes of illegal meat imports that the National Audit Office estimates are brought into this country.† That means ninety-nine point four per cent got through onto the open market, an unknown risk to human or animal health.
Environmental health officers like Richard Robinson are left picking up the pieces, and as if to add insult to injury, it appears that under the new regime led by Customs the flow of information and intelligence from the ports has all but dried up.
Richard Robinson:† They do not talk to us.† They do not share information.† We used to get a report every fortnight from one or other airport of consignment theyíd found.† Theyíd give an address of where it was going to.† We could then follow up on that.
AS:† Why is it important for Customs to be sharing information with you?
RR:† So that we can follow up at the address in this borough because previous goods may have been brought in that werenít discovered and may still be on the premises.† Since Customs have taken over these duties we have not had a single notification of any consignment bound for this borough.† Certainly from the dealings with other local authorities it seems to be fairly common.† Very few of them get any information at all from Customs.
AS:† Does that shock you?
RR:† It worries me because Iím sure the trade hasnít stopped.
AS:† When you consider the health risks bush meat may pose this is remarkable.
The Food Standards Agency has set up a system of liaison between local authorities and Customs.† Sarah Appleby, Head of Food Imports, says itís working well.† She even applauds its effectiveness.† I asked her on what grounds?
Has the Food Standards Agency passed on hard information from Customs to Environmental Health Officers on the ground?
Sarah Appleby:† Yes.
AS:† How many times?
SA:† A number of times.
AS:† Itís surprising that Hackney, one of the most proactive local authorities working on this issue, hasnít received a call from Customs; hasnít had that call from your office.
SA:† Well certainly thatís for Customs to deal with.† Obviously if we get information we would pass it between local authorities and Customs to help facilitate investigation.
AS:† You said that you were liaising between Customs and between environmental health officers but on the ground it would appear that that liaison doesnít add up to much.
SA:† Well Iím sorry to hear that but certainly we are doing all we can to work very closely with local authorities to actually draw the enforcement activities together to ensure that these criminals are detected and caught.
AS:† We asked Customs to show us how they tightened controls; to show us their new sniffer dogs in action.† They refused.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, has overall responsibility for illegal food imports.† Its latest annual review highlights the increase in the number of seizures.† It says it expects them to increase as the deterrent effect of the Governmentís policies begin to bite.
I went through the figures with the Environment Minister, Elliot Morley.
The deterrent you talk about adds up to the seizure of less than one per cent of illegal meat imports.† So ninety nine point four per cent of illegal meat imports are getting through.
Elliot Morley MP:† Thatís an assumption and, and I donít quite know how you come to that figure.
AS:† These are your figures.
EM:† Well Iím not sure it says itís one per cent.
AS:† Well if you, if you actually look at the total meat seized itís seventy-three tonnes.
EM:† Yes thatís right.
AS:† The Governmentís own estimate of illegal meat that comes into the country is twelve thousand tonnes.
EM:† Yes, we have to bear in mind that this is at airports and in terms of the, the overall quantities of illegal meat the bulk of that will, is, probably, large scale illegal fraud that comes in through border inspection posts, that youíre talking there of, of container loads of meat.† Now they have been seized as well.† Now they arenít in those figures that youíre quoting there because theyíre at points of entry at airports.
AS:† I, Iím not quite with you there.† Are you saying that basically more meat is seized than you actually state in your own report?
EM:† Well I, Iím not quite sure to be honest with you what report youíre referring to there.
AS:† Iím actually looking at the figures, and Iíll read from the cover, ďThe annual review of controls on imports of animal products: April 2003 to March 2004: DEFRA.Ē
EM:† I, I havenít got that report.† Iím terribly sorry.
AS:† Contrary to what the Minister said DEFRA officials later confirmed that the report includes figures for all illegal meat seizures, air and sea.† The report also states that the vast majority of seizures made by Customs are of small quantity from the travelling public.†
This is not the experience of Clive Lawrence.† Up until seven months ago he was the main contractor responsible for the transport of all organic material, animal or plant, legal or illegal, arriving at Heathrow Airport.† He believes tonnes of bush meat enter the country every month, smuggled in on flights.
Clive Lawrence (Contractor for Transport of Organic Material):† Thereís also a much larger amount of organised trafficking.
AS:† What basis have you got for saying that?
CL:† I used to monitor Heathrow myself and I used to stand in the terminals and, and watch the, the organisers get hold of the couriers who bring the traffic in.† Then they used to take them out to the car park in Terminal Three and they would all deposit their bags into a van and then just disperse.† I mean I monitored on one occasion over fifty bags going in to a transit van and you could tell the vehicle was grossly overloaded.
AS:† Big business, a well-organised trade, which has now come to the attention of the police.† Detective Chief Inspector, Will OíReilly, of the Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Squad, is investigating whatís become known as the Adam Case.
In September 2001 the torso of a five-year old boy was found on the banks of the Thames.† Heíd been sacrificed, his body parts used in a barbaric ritual.† As part of this investigation the police have found evidence to link it with the bush meat trade.
Detective Chief Inspector Will OíReilly (Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Squad):† This is a computer presentation that, that weíve made.† This is a skull of, of a large rodent, about sort of three foot long, which you also see sold, sort of spread-eagled and, and cooked by the, by the roadside in Nigeria.† Now that, there, is in actual fact a voodoo artefact.
AS:† And what weíre looking at here is the skull of a grass cutter wrapped in some kind of hair with an iron pin rammed through it.
WO:† Absolutely, and people would pray and worship that as a representation of ancestral gods.† And we found that on one of the Adam raids.† Indeed it was the trafficker that, that we arrested on the Adam enquiry who used this as a form of protection for his criminal enterprise.
AS:† So really the trade in bush meat, ritual sacrifice of, of humans, the trade into this country, you believe are all intrinsically linked.
WO:† Intrinsically, yes, without, without a doubt.
AS:† This testimony adds to a growing body of evidence of the nature and scale of the import, not only of the meat of endangered species but the involvement of organised criminal gangs.† I put this point to the Environment Minister, Elliot Morley.
Weíve been told by the Metropolitan Police that they believe people whoíre involved in trafficking bush meat that theyíve got connections between that and the Adam torso murder.† Theyíre talking about really serious organised crime.
Elliot Morley:† Oh, thereís no two ways about that.† Those people who are involved in this kind of illegal trafficking, they are linked to organised crime.† And those people who are involved in that kind of, of area of activity are very unpleasant, nasty people and they are hardened criminals.
AS:† Well whoís doing anything about it?
EM:† The, the fact that the police, I mean Iíve mentioned it to you, makes it very clear that action is being taken.† Some people have been put in prison for this activity, for the first time in this country I might say.† And I understand that the, the Customs so far this year have brought four successful prosecutions in relation to smuggling.
AS:† One of these was a man bringing in raw turkey and chicken from New York; another a woman from Gambia who attempted to smuggle in goat meat and fish.† She was fined a hundred and fifty pounds and ordered to pay a hundred and forty pounds costs.
Critics argue that the authorities are failing to stem the flow of bush meat into this country.† But if theyíre failing here what of the African states?
Cameroon boasts some of the toughest wildlife laws in Africa but, as weíve seen, the meat of endangered species is openly on sale in the marketplace.† You can hire the hunters with ease.† So whatís going wrong?† Why arenít people being arrested and prosecuted through the courts?
Behind me are the offices of the Judiciary.† Justice Nyo Matteus Dingha is a senior magistrate here, the equivalent of an Appeal Court Judge.
Justice Nyo Matteus Dingha: We want the judicial system to understand that the fight against illegal hunting is actually as important as any other criminal matter.† So that awareness is not yet there.† We need help.† If you were to visit the Legal Department they have bulk and bulk of work.† Case for us are pouring in every day.† They donít have paper, they donít have adequate typing machines.† The staffing is, is low and if you see in the few we donít have vehicles to move round so as to trap the real poachers.† The real poachers are far tougher than us as I can see.† If we donít have the means we will not be able to take the fight to the end.
AS:† And itís not just a problem of resources; itís corruption too.† Weíve been told that senior officials in the heart of Government are paid to turn a blind eye and this isnít hearsay.† Weíve spoken to senior staff in the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, MINEF, the Ministry responsible for enforcing the wildlife laws.
Itís a similar situation with the police.† We spoke to a Police Officer, a Superintendent.† He told us that many of his colleagues are simply bought off.† He didnít want to be named.
Unnamed Police Superintendent:† As far as corruption is concerned the phenomenon is really there and we battle with it every day.† You need a lot of courage, a lot of steadfastness to, not to fall into it, because every time that we arrest people somebodyís prepared to give me.† But you see we resist.
AS:† Youíve been offered bribes have you?
Unnamed Police Superintendent:† Of course
AS:† But you said no.
Unnamed Police Superintendent:† We said no because we know that weíre fighting this thing with conviction and because we are doing it in order to get money.
AS:† This is an illegal and violent trade.† Itís about money and if poverty is the driving force behind it then this is an area where Western Governments could help.† If you alleviate the poverty of the pygmy tribes for example thereís less need to hunt.†
But interest in this type of project is waning.† According to Glyn Davies of the Zoological Society of London funding from our own Government, the Department for International Development, DIFID, is drying up.
Doctor Glyn Davies:† The pendulum is very much in favour of focusing on macro economic policy and private enterprise, and kind of hoping that the natural resources will look after themselves.† If that continues then the more delicate parts of the natural resource spectrum, such as wildlife, will definitely be lost.
AS:† Does this frustrate you?
GD:† We have engaged with DIFID as much as possible here.† We will continue keeping that alive.
AS:† So basically youíre saying theyíre not doing enough?
GD:† Weíd welcome more support.† Weíd certainly like to see more investments coming from a Department which actually is receiving more income from the Treasury than it was previously.
AS:† The concerns for the pygmy hunters are not just economic.† Hunting is dangerous and the risks are increasing.
Assistant Professor Nathan Wolfe is leading research at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University based in Baltimore.† He believes the bush meat trade has serious repercussions for human health that could reverberate across the globe.
Assistant Professor Nathan Wolfe (Leading Research, Johns Hopkins University):† Increasingly we think that there is a range of viruses and other diseases which are crossing between animals that are hunted and people who are hunting, particularly individuals who are exposed to the blood and body fluids of wild animals.† Thereís going to be a number of factors which are going to influence this.† But what we think is that the closer the two species are, in terms of their relationships, the higher the probability that a virus is going to be able to successfully jump from one species to the next.
Is it the case that hunting something thatís closely related to you is more likely to lead to transmission of the new disease that can spread?† We think thatís the case.
AS:† In fact this is more than a hunch.† His team has now published extensive research.† Theyíve tested the blood of more than one thousand pygmy hunters.† The findings are potentially catastrophic.
NW:† Weíve found a, a retrovirus which is in the same family as HIV virus that causes Aids in a number of these hunters.† This is the area of the world that HIV came from and this is most likely the mechanism by which HIV merged into the human population.† And I think as, a species, itís, that itís absolutely required of us to make sure that if we know that similar viruses are entering into humans we at least watch those.† The fear is other diseases which will have global impact.
AS:† What are your fears?
NW:† You know, what we know is that we have a retrovirus which is crossing the boundary, itís crossing this bridge into human populations.† Thatís what we know.† We know retroviruses have the potential to spread globally because thatís whatís happened with HIV.† Itís spread throughout the world.† Whether or not this particular virus, Simian foamy virus, is, has the ability to be transmitted or not we donít know.† Itís at our own peril that we donít examine this.
AS:† So the stakes are rising.† This is potentially an issue of huge international repercussions.
The Environment Minister, Elliot Morley, speaking on behalf of the Government, told me he was aware of these developments.
Elliot Morley MP:† There has been no evidence of any of these kind of viruses coming into the UK in terms of what bush meat has been seized.† But nevertheless it is a worry, and apart from the, the impact on biodiversity you do have to be aware that there are potential risks to humans as well.
AS:† So whatís our Government doing to, to address this problem, address the fact that we could be looking, potentially, at another Aid type catastrophe spreading across the globe?
EM:† Well as I say there, thereís no evidence of that coming in, into the UK.† But nevertheless we, we canít be complacent about these things and we must be on our guard.
AS:† Our understanding is that the Department for International Development has been actually reducing funding, pulling out of natural resource projects, the type of project working to stop hunting.
EM:† Itís not so much that theyíve reduced spending, theyíve put spending into, into other areas.† And what theyíve been doing is putting money in, into governance issues, into strengthening organisation.† But they do put quite a lot of money into forest management and, in terms of poverty alleviation, thereís a number of big projects that they have.† And that also includes the bush meat issue.
AS:† But the hunting continues.† The bush meat trade is a complex issue.† The driving force is a mix of poverty and greed.† It involves organised crime.† There are obvious and serious risks of the spread of disease to both the human population and domestic livestock on a global scale.
As the academics say: we ignore this at our peril.