June 18, 2010

Bushmeat Smuggling “˜Rife’ Throughout Europe

A study published on Thursday said that over five tons of bushmeat from primates, crocodiles and other rare or protected animals are smuggled in luggage through one of Europe's busiest airports each week.

The study said that 39 percent of bushmeat confiscated during a 17-day special operation by customs officials at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport came from creatures protected by the Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species.

"Our results estimate that around 270 tons of potentially contaminated, illegal bushmeat is passing unchecked through a single European airport per year, posing a huge potential risk to public health," said lead author Anne-Lise Chaber of Britain's Royal Veterinary College.

The smuggled meat included 11 species:  guenon and mangabey monkeys, the blue duiker forest deer, two types of pangolin and both Nile and slender-snouted crocodile.

The largest single haul was 112 pounds of meat carried by a single passenger that had no other luggage.

The study, published in the journal Conservation Letters, said that much of the bushmeat came from the Central African Republic, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The investigators learned that Paris-based illegal traders take orders in advance and arrange for delivery of the goods to customers.

"Our results show that this is a lucrative, organized trade feeding into a luxury market. A four-kilo (nine-pound) monkey will cost around 100 euros (120 dollars) in France, compared with just five euros in Cameroon," said co-author Marcus Rowcliffe of the Zoological Society of London.

The researchers said the illegal trade also raises serious questions about the risk of bringing in germs and other pathogens.

"Surveillance methods need to be more robust and deterrents more severe if we're to have any chance of halting illegal trade," Rowcliffe said.

He said bushmeat is easy to smuggle, and custom officials are given no financial incentives to intercept the contraband.


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