Several species of wild animals in central Africa are in danger of extinction, largely because they are being killed in increasing numbers for their meat. Animals such as monkeys, wild rats, small antelopes and porcupines are traditional food in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the tradition has continued as people move into the cities.
So large quantities of bushmeat are transported hundreds of miles by river, road and plane into the capital, Kinshasa, from the forests.
The authorities have introduced various laws and punishments to try to stop animals being hunted and killed for meat, but locals said the rules were complicated and even contradictory. An international wildlife trust decided to try a different approach, by focusing on the demand for the meat. They recognised that rural people had few options, but city-dwellers had plenty of choice.
Kinshasa is a sophisticated city of 18 million and growing. The research showed that eating bushmeat was regarded as part of Congolese culture, something of a status symbol, and healthy. It also suggested that conservation was seen as a negative idea and a foreign imposition. So the campaign needed to be seen as Congolese and the change of behaviour as a sign of sophistication.
The Congolese government launched the campaign. One of the targets chosen was young-ish (34-44), fairly well-off men, who were shown in videos enjoying food in restaurants. The slogan was “Let’s celebrate Congolese cuisine without bushmeat”. A Congolese chef, known to be an influencer, put on demonstrations of how to cook alternatives to bushmeat at home. The campaign was supported by branded aprons and bags.
A limited evaluation of the campaign was done on mobiles, because it was during the Covid pandemic, so it may be a while before there is a body of evidence to prove the success of this demand-reduction approach.
(Credit Wildlife Conservation Society)
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