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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – September 23, 2002: Bushmeat Hunting in Ghana - 2002-09-20

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

An American-based environmental group says hunting wild animals in Ghana has become a serious problem. Conservation International reports that more than thirty percent of wild animal meat supplied to local markets in Ghana contains dangerous chemicals. This is creating serious health and environmental risks in the country.

Conservation International says hunters use extreme methods to kill wild animals. These include poison, forest fires and guns. These methods are dangerous for people, wildlife and the environment. The country now suffers from a lack of wildlife because so many animals have been killed.

The crisis was the subject of a two-day conference in Accra last month. More than two-hundred people attended. They included government officials, non-governmental organizations, tribal leaders and representatives of the animal meat trade. Their goal was to find ways to limit the amount of bushmeat eaten by Ghanaians and to create other economic possibilities. Currently, the country’s animal meat trade is a three-hundred-fifty-million dollar industry.

Officials released an action plan at the close of the Accra conference. It calls on the Ghanaian government to examine and improve its wildlife laws. It also urges a ban on the use of extreme hunting methods and a halt to wildlife exports. The action plan also calls for stronger government supervision of the bushmeat industry to protect public health and the dying out of rare animals.

In addition to health and environmental concerns created by this crisis, officials say Ghanaian culture also could be affected. Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei (oh-chee-YA-mee am-pa-DOO ah-JAY) is the head of Conservation International in Ghana. He says that most ethnic groups in the country believe the animals being hunted are linked to the people’s ancestors. Local tribes consider the animals to be signs of their history and family traditions.

Mister Ampadu-Agyei says Ghanaian culture and history is in danger. In the past, local rulers helped protect the country’s wild animals by enforcing traditional rules and customs. Mister Ampadu-Agyei says if Ghana is not careful, all its wildlife will disappear and nothing will be left to show the nation’s children.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.