Bioko Bushmeat Project

Between 1997 and late-2010, more than 197,000 animals...

…passed through the Malabo bushmeat market, including over 35,000 monkeys.

Wild game, known in Africa as bushmeat, is consumed as a delicacy on Bioko Island. It ranges from tiny blue duikers to endangered monkeys to massive marine turtles. Because bushmeat is relatively scarce, and growing scarcer, it is priced well above other protein sources such as fish, beef or chicken. As Malabo becomes more prosperous, demand for bushmeat grows, driving prices higher and enticing more local people to hunt wildlife for profit.

Since 1997, BBPP has conducted a survey of animals for sale at the Malabo bushmeat market. Our experienced census taker visits the market six days a week, recording the species, sex, approximate age (infant, juvenile, adult), source, method of capture (gun, dog, snare, by hand), condition (live, freshly killed, dried) and sale price of each animal.

By late 2010, a total of over 4,000 days of bushmeat market information had been collected. Unfortunately, after declining for the first five years of the survey, the rate of monkey harvest on Bioko Island increased abruptly in 2002, and now appears to have increased again in 2005. A number of factors probably contributed to this increase:

    • Increased Profitability: Bushmeat prices are rapidly increasing, making hunting more profitable, even when hunters must travel greater distances.
    • Increased Demand: Bushmeat buyers have benefited from Equatorial Guinea’s rapidly rising GDP (resulting from the development of offshore petroleum reserves) and have money to spend on bushmeat, even at higher prices. Monkeys are definitely a luxury meat.
    • Mardi Gras Effect: Shotgun hunting on Bioko Island is thought to be controlled by government officials who profit from bushmeat hunting. Inside sources reported alarm among these officials in anticipation of an enforced ban on the illegal shotgun hunting, especially of primates, in protected areas, initially as a result of the 2002 Bioko Biodiversity Roundtable and more recently, the National Biodiversity Policy for Equatorial Guinea, as proposed by Conservation International as part of their role in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.

Regardless of the cause, the final result is greatly increased hunting pressure on the larger forest animals, especially the monkeys, in the more remote parts of Bioko Island.

Monkey hunting makes a negligible contribution to Equatorial Guinea’s economy. The sale of primate meat on Bioko is, at most, an income supplement for shotgun hunters and their families, who represent less than 0.01 percent of the Island’s population. As a share of GDP, the hunting of Bioko’s monkeys accounts for 0.004 percent of the nation’s economy (assuming a 2005 GDP of $7.6 billion). As a share of the Island’s protein intake, monkey meat is, similarly, unimportant. Commercial hunting of monkeys satisfies less than 1 percent of the minimum protein requirement of the urban population.

In 2005, about sixty-five percent of bushmeat consumers were of Fang ethnicity, while 24 percent were Bubi. Consumers were wealthy relative to the population at large. The explosion of per capita income in Equatorial Guinea has been accompanied by higher prices for monkey meat, greater frequency of visits to the meat market. Rising prices for monkey meat have not dampened consumption of bushmeat.

The most common animals in the bushmeat market are Emin’s giant pouched rat (Cricetomys emini) and the blue duiker (Philantomba monticola). These animals have high reproductive rates and are usually captured by snare. Monkeys are the third most common market animal, and they are captured almost entirely by shotgun. BBPP favors a ban on shotgun hunting to protect monkeys, which reproduce more slowly, from extinction on the island.

BBPP has observed that, in addition to the 24 native species harvested as bushmeat, mainland species including giant pangolins (Manis gigantea), hinged-backed tortoises (Kinixys erosa)and crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis) were transported to the Malabo market to take advantage of the high prices.