A study, published in the Journal Royal Society Open Science, claims that 301 species of mammal, representing 7% of all the land mammals and about a quarter of all endangered mammals, are on the verge of being wiped out by overhunting.
These species include 168 primates, such as the lowland gorilla and mandrill, 73 hoofed animals, such as the wild yak and bactrian camel, 27 bats, such as the golden-capped fruit bat and the black-bearded flying fox, and 12 carnivores, such as the clouded leopard and several bear species.
Additionally, there are 26 marsupials threatened by meat hunting, including the grizzled tree kangaroo, and 21 rodent species, such as the Sulawesi giant squirrel and the alpine woolly rat.
“There are a plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said Prof David Macdonald, at the University of Oxford and part of the international team that produced the research.
“The number of hunters involved has gone up,” he says, “and the penetration of road networks into the remotest places is such that there is no refuge left. So it becomes commercially possible to make a trade out of something that was once just a rabbit for the pot. In places like Cameroon, where I have worked, you see flotillas of taxis early in the morning going out to very remote areas and being loaded up with the [bushmeat] catch and taken back to towns.”
It is alarming that the extinction rate has increased so rapidly, affecting “the livelihoods and food security for hundreds of millions of rural people across the globe,” but also the ecosystem itself, scientists warn.
Hunting these animals to extinction comes as we find ourselves in the middle of the largest global extinction since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. This time, however, humans are causing it.
Macdonald clarifies that “you have got to distinguish between those people who have no choice but to eat bushmeat, and what is to be done for them, and people now living in towns who have a nostalgic memory for the time when they lived on bushmeat, but no longer need to, so it is a luxury.”
It is a time to make great sacrifices for the good of the species. If you can hold off on eating these creatures, you should. We have got to find a better way to supply cultures around the world with enough food to survive, including greater legal protection for the hunted species, empowering local communities to receive larger benefits from wildlife conservation and providing alternative foods, better education and family planning to curb population growth.