Bushmeat Across Borders

The illicit bushmeat trade—the sale of wild animal meat—continues to thrive and even escalate despite efforts by scientists, conservationists and health officials to stem
the tide.

In October 2009, a 21-year-old student from Cameroon was stopped while attempting to navigate the “nothing to declare” line of customs at Warsaw International Airport. Following a spate of dubious answers to questions about the unusual shape of objects in her suitcase, customs agents eventually uncovered a small, smoked monkey.

Two months later, in a separate incident, Brooklyn federal Judge Raymond Dearie sentenced Mamie Manneh, 41, to probation for smuggling 65 pieces of smoked bushmeat, including primate parts, into the United States in January 2006.

In another incident, in 2008, an African visitor to Washington Dulles International Airport was ultimately allowed to enter the US without penalties, minus three monkey carcasses discovered in his luggage.

A practice that dramatically impacts the world’s ecosystem and threatens the survival of many species—2.2 billion pounds of bushmeat is removed from central African forests alone each year—the trade in bushmeat also poses serious health risks to human handlers and consumers, including parasites and viruses such as Ebola, HIV and yellow fever.

In her letter to federal Judge Raymond Dearie preceding Manneh’s sentencing, acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall said, “As a leader in the global community, the US has a responsibility to uphold and strongly enforce [laws to curb the] devastating impact unregulated consumption of wildlife is having on species populations in Africa.” In the case involving Ms. Manneh and the incident at Dulles Airport, the lenient penalties will not deter future illegal bushmeat imports.

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