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Trade in bushmeat decimating Tanzanian forests

By Lucy Brake - 15 Feb 2011 13:27:0 GMT
Trade in bushmeat decimating Tanzanian forests

In Tanzania, international and local environmentalists have just released a new report which confirms that bushmeat hunting alongside destruction of the forests is a major threat to this unique environment. The research focused on the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, which is a protected forest within the Eastern Arc Mountains of Southern Tanzania. These mountains, as part of Africa's mountain forests, were included in a recent list prepared by Conservation International which highlighted the world's top 10 forests that they consider to be most at risk.

The report into the practice of hunting for bushmeat investigated how hunters have been slaughtering species in this biological hotspot. Arafat Mtui, who is the coordinator of the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre, said ''some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world''.

In addition to the Udzungwa red colobus, a small antelope (known as duikers) was found to be under threat of extinction as a result of the hunting. Even more concerning is that the scientists believe the Angolan colobus, another monkey species, has already vanished from the Uzungwa forests. In the past, hunters have had a detrimental effect on forest species such as the bush pig, African buffalo, elephant and also the leopard.

The Udzungwa Mountains boast the greatest expanse of forests within the Eastern Arc Mountains and they are home to a wide number of different plants and animals, some of these species are only found in this location, which includes a couple of monkey species. ''Unfortunately,'' says Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, ''while some of the forests are protected by the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, there are important forests such as Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve that have not been granted adequate protection.''

Some of the urgent steps that the researchers are calling for include improving the enforcement of the laws through increased forest patrols, involving the local communities in managing the forests as well as providing education for the communities on the protected species. They are calling on the Tanzanian government to upgrade the status of protection of the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve to 'Nature Reserve'.

Charles Meshack, Executive Director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, believes that ''the government needs to allocate the resources that are required to manage this national treasure and to address the needs of the adjacent communities''. Only then will these important species start to feel safe from the threat of being hunted for bushmeat.