Written by Bella Zimbalatti, Roots & Shoots Guest Contributor. Sackville, New Brunswick.
From small choices like deciding to eat locally grown apples rather than those imported from a separate continent, to major choices, such as who will lead the country for the next four years, our actions echo globally. It may not seem obvious, but as Canadian youth, we have an impact on chimpanzees and other African wildlife on a daily basis. One very interesting connection is the bushmeat crisis. “Bushmeat” refers to any meat that comes from wild animals (residing in the “bush” or forest). The hunting and trading of bushmeat, valued at $1 billion annually, has multiple negative impacts on chimp populations and is recognized as one of the leading contributors to the extinction of great ape species.
Bushmeat has never been part of my diet. However, working with Roots & Shoots has taught me to look beyond the surface for the interconnections between cause and effect, especially in issues as complex as the bushmeat trade. Some quick research revealed myriads of other connections between the North American lifestyle and wildlife welfare. Though there is increasing demand for exotic meats in urban centres around the world, it is more likely you affect the bushmeat trade through demand for forestry-based products. As logging increases in wild spaces, elongation of roads and other accesses to previously isolated habitat extends reach of the bushmeat trade—it harms more fragile animal populations in a greater area. Reducing use of products that require this type of logging, and supporting alternative industries in communities local to areas of concentrated bushmeat trade, are just two of many ways we can make a difference. One such industry is fair-trade shade-grown coffee. More information on how to get involved with this can be found here.
The public attitude towards chimpanzees and other wildlife welfare has the potential to stop the bushmeat trade, but the present reality is that it exacerbates the issue. Many people are unaware of the extent of the bushmeat trade, or don’t realize how important simple choices can be to saving critical species from extinction. At the current trend, chimpanzees could be extinct in the next 15 years. We can all help change this attitude by talking about it with friends and family, learning more about it ourselves, and putting our support behind environmental initiatives. We can make informed choices on a daily basis and get involved with programs that promote a healthy relationship between people, humans, and the environment.
Comments are more than welcome! What are your thoughts on the bushmeat trade, current environmental initiatives, and the level of engagement of Canadian youth in today’s environmental issues?