photo by Corinne.Staley (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

The meat of wild animals – many of them endangered – is routinely and illegally smuggled into Europe from Africa at an astounding rate, according to scientists.

A new, never before attempted study on the smuggling of bushmeat suggest that 5 metric tons (11,550 lbs) are trafficked into Paris airport on flights originating mainly from Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Though some bushmeat is brought back for personal consumption – a ‘taste of home’ – much of it is sold in an open market in Paris for €20-€30 per kilo. Some of the meat is from endangered primates, as well as pangolins, crocodiles, cane rats and porcupines.

From an article in Newsweek:

All told, 39 percent of the bushmeat carcasses passengers were carrying represent species whose continued existence is sufficiently threatened as to make it illegal to bring them into Europe.

Such developments are symptomatic of a growing luxury market for bushmeat in Europe. Another curious aspect to the case study is that a third of those caught smuggling bushmeat were traveling on family discount tickets from Air France, meaning that they are relatives of the airline’s employees.

The penalties for trafficking bushmeat are low, while the monetary rewards are high. The meat is often simply confiscated, with no further punishment to the smugglers.

From a BBC News report:

The researchers acknowledged that the study had a short time scale and limited geographical coverage, and said that a longer and large scale survey was now required to build on the findings.

Besides conservation issues, importing bushmeat – or any meat – in this way raises concerns for human and animal health in Europe.

Additional resources:

UK Press Association – Warning over bushmeat trade imports