The consumption of bushmeat is a major public health problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Bushmeat is the meat of wild animals such as antelopes, monkeys, snakes and crocodiles. It is very popular in the DRC, but its unregulated consumption is endangering the health of the population.
Bushmeat can be contaminated with parasites and viruses that can cause serious illnesses, such as Ebola, Marburg or dengue fever. These diseases can be fatal.
In March 2021, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development and its partners in the DRC launched a campaign called « Let’s celebrate Congolese cuisine without bushmeat – Yoka Pimbo! ». The aim of the project is to reduce bushmeat consumption in urban areas, particularly in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, which currently has an estimated population of over 15 million.
Resistance to the fight against bushmeat consumption
Despite the efforts of the health authorities, bushmeat consumption is still very common in the DRC. There are many reasons for this consumption:
- Bushmeat is often cheaper than farmed meat.
- Bushmeat is considered tastier than farmed meat.
- Bushmeat is often associated with cultural traditions.
The health authorities try to combat bushmeat consumption through awareness campaigns and market inspections. However, they are finding it difficult to keep up with demand.
Despite the risks, the sale of bushmeat is still very common in other markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A young boy told us that it is common practice in his community to eat bushmeat. He talks about their habit of eating rats trapped in the bush.
« I think the rat meat called dunaa that is sold in the streets tastes good. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no danger in eating it. This rat meat is appreciated in our cultures.
It doesn’t take much to prepare or find it, compared with meat from cows or goats.
Dunaa meat, i.e. rat meat, does not cost much. People eat it in abundance and never tire of it », says Grâce Muhesi, a young man living in Rutshuru territory in the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As Grâce has just testified, many local people turn to bushmeat because it is cheaper.
The consumption of bushmeat is a major public health problem in the DRC. It is important to raise awareness of the risks associated with eating bushmeat and to put in place measures to reduce its consumption.
Listen to a report on zoonoses here :
Zero bushmeat in the Virunga central market in Goma
In the pirate meat markets along the streets of Goma, the risk of buying contaminated or uncontrolled meat is increasing. Mr Masumbuko Sinzahera Pierre, Managing Director of the Virunga central market, is calling on his fellow citizens to be wary of meat that does not pass inspection by the relevant authorities.
As part of the fight against the spread of zoonoses, the meat sold at the Virunga central market in Goma comes from approved abattoirs such as those in Kahembe and Kituku. These abattoirs are subject to strict food safety standards, which guarantee that the meat is healthy and safe for consumption, » says the market’s Managing Director, Mr Masumbuko Sinzahera Pierre.
Risks associated with bushmeat consumption
Bushmeat can be contaminated with a variety of parasites and viruses, including :
- Ebola fever
- Marburg fever
- Dengue forest fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis E
These diseases can be fatal, and can lead to serious complications such as brain damage, kidney and liver problems, and reproductive disorders.
How to reduce bushmeat consumption
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your bushmeat consumption:
- Be aware of the risks of eating bushmeat.
- Do not eat bushmeat that is not properly cooked.
- Buy bushmeat from a reliable source, such as an approved market.
- Avoid eating bushmeat imported from other countries.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), health risks are increasing. Factors such as climate change, changes in land use, unsustainable agricultural practices, globalization and the trade in wild animals give pathogens multiple opportunities to evolve in new forms, increasing the frequency and intensity of transmission events from animals to humans. What’s more, this threat is not limited to humans.
While most risk assessments focus on the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans, some diseases can also be transmitted from humans to animals and have considerable repercussions on the health of animals, whether domestic or wild.
WHO explains that diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis and influenza, among others, can infect different animal species and even prove fatal. For example, gorillas and chimpanzees, whose genetic make-up is close to our own, are particularly susceptible to human diseases. As with other endangered species, Veterinary Services, wildlife authorities and researchers need to pay particular attention to them.
Daniel Makasi, Green journalism consultant and Tetea Mazingira Podcaster