Mark Kinver, BBC News 17 Nov 10;
About 270 tonnes of illegal bushmeat could be passing through one of Europe's busiest airports each year, the first study of its kind estimates.
A team of researchers says the illicit trade could pose a risk to human or animal health and increase the demand for meat from threatened species.
The figure is based on seizures from searches carried out over 17 days at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
The findings appear in the journal Conservation Letters.
A team of researchers from France, Cambodia and the UK said it was the "first systematic study of the scale and nature of this international trade".
"We estimate that about five tonnes of bushmeat per week is smuggled in personal baggage through Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport," they wrote.
During the 17-day study, a total of 134 passengers arriving on 29 flights from 14 African nations were searched.
Nine people were found to be carrying bushmeat, which had a combined mass of 188kg.
In total, 11 species were found - including two types of primates, two kinds of crocodiles and three rodent species - four of which were listed as protected species.
Co-author Marcus Rowcliffe from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) explained why the international team of researchers decided to carry out the research.
"As no study like this had been carried out before, we really had no idea as to the volume of bushmeat coming into airports," he told BBC News.
"It was a surprise when we saw how much was arriving."
The products were not only imported for personal consumption, but were part of a lucrative organised trade with high prices indicating luxury status, Dr Rowcliffe added.
"A 4kg monkey will cost around 100 euros (£84), compared with just five euros in Cameroon," he said.
Based on the data gathered from the 29 flights covered by the study, the researchers then calculated the weekly and annual inward flow of bushmeat.
"Assuming that (the study's) rates are representative of the average weekly rate over the year, this equates to... 273 tonnes of bushmeat," they calculated.
The team suggested that there were likely to be a number of factors behind the large volume of bushmeat being imported.
"First, detecting and seizing these products is not a priority," they explained.
"Second, penalties for importing illegal meat or fish are low and rarely imposed. Third, the rewards for transporting bushmeat are potentially high."
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.
However, they added that their study did allow them to consider ways to control the trade.
They suggest offering incentives to customs officers, increasing the penalties for illegally importing the products and raising awareness among passengers that bringing such products into the EU was prohibited.
The team concluded: "The large scale of current imports makes it important to consider all options for reducing the flow of illegal meat and fish, and of bushmeat in particular."
Illegal bushmeat trade rife in Europe
Zoological Society of London EurekAlert 17 Jun 10;
More than five tonnes of illegal bushmeat is being smuggled in personal luggage each week through one of Europe's busiest airports, reveals new research published in Conservation Letters today.
Working alongside customs officials at France's Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and The National Veterinary School and the Natural History Museum of Toulouse identified eleven bushmeat species from confiscated luggage, including species of primate, crocodiles and pangolins.
This study quantifies for the first time the illegal trade of bushmeat through a European airport.
134 passengers were searched from 29 flights over a period of 17 days. The single largest confiscation was of 51kg of bushmeat carried by a single passenger with no other luggage.
"Our results estimate that around 270 tonnes of potentially contaminated illegal bushmeat is passing unchecked through a single European airport per year, posing a huge potential risk to public health," says lead author Dr Anne-Lise Chaber, from ZSL and the RVC.
The Central African Republic, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo were identified as the main sources of bushmeat. The researchers conducted conversations with three traders in Paris revealing that, as well as street trading, traders take orders in advance and arrange delivery of the goods to the customer.
Co-author Dr Marcus Rowcliffe from ZSL says: "Our results show that this is a lucrative, organised trade feeding into a luxury market; a 4kg monkey will cost around €100 in France, compared with just €5 in Cameroon."
He adds: "Importing bushmeat is relatively easy as customs officials are given no financial incentives to uncover illegal meat imports, compared with the bonuses they're awarded for drug and counterfeit seizures. Also, penalties are very low for people caught carrying illegal meat."
39 per cent of the confiscated bushmeat was identified as being listed under the Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), highlighting the unsustainable nature of the trade and its potential impact on species of conservation concern.
In addition to wildlife conservation concerns, the illegal trade of such large quantities of bushmeat raises serious questions about the importation of pathogens into Europe.
"Surveillance methods need to be more robust and deterrents more severe if we're to have any chance of halting this illegal trade," says co-author Dr Andrew Cunningham, from ZSL.
This is the first systematic study of the volume and nature of the international bushmeat trade. The researchers now wish to undertake a wider-scale study with greater geographic coverage to determine the overall volume of the illegal bushmeat trade into Europe.
* Bushmeat is a term originating in West and Central Africa meaning the meat of wild animals.
* The research paper, The scale of illegal meat importation from Africa to Europe via Paris (DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2010.00121.x) is published online in Conservation Letters on Friday 18 May.
* Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation overseas. For further information please visit www.zsl.org
* The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's first and largest veterinary school and a constituent College of the University of London. It also provides support for veterinary and related professions through its three referral hospitals, diagnostic services and continuing professional development courses. For further information please visit www.rvc.ac.uk
* The National Veterinary School and the Natural History Museum of Toulouse date back to 1828 and 1865, respectively. The former was founded to support agricultural development in south-western France, the latter to house collections gathered by the Academy of Sciences of Toulouse, local travellers and early prehistorians. After a 9 year closure, the Musem reopened in 2008 in a new configuration, re-focused on the relations between man and the environment, with research and teaching in palaeontology, biological anthropology and human ecology. Further information please visit http://www.museum.toulouse.fr/index.php?lang=fr; http://www.anthropobiologie.cict.fr/accueil.html
Mark Kinver, BBC News 17 Nov 10;