During early 2012, Panthera (www.panthera.org) (led by Peter Lindsey, a SULi member) partnered up with the Range Wide Programme for cheetah and African wild dog conservation (RWP; hosted by a partnership between the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society) to organise a meeting on illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade in African savannas. The rationale behind the meeting was a growing feeling that the bushmeat trade represents a very serious threat to wildlife populations in the savanna biome, but that the threat is underappreciated by governments, NGOs, the research community and other stakeholders. While the threat posed by the bushmeat trade in forest biomes in Africa is well understood, that scale of the problem in savannas is little known, perhaps due to a misconception that the threat is a low-key subsistence phenomenon. Twenty-nine experts (with experience on the bushmeat trade from 29 different African countries) gathered in Johannesburg to brainstorm the topic of illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade in African savannas. SULi was represented by Mike Murphree, who presented on his experience with the devolution of rights to use and manage wildlife for food in Ghana. By the end of the meeting, consensus was reached on what the key drivers of the problem are and what solutions are needed to address the issue. In addition, insights into the impacts of illegal bushmeat hunting were collated.

After the bushmeat meeting, a comprehensive technical report was compiled which outlined existing knowledge on the drivers and impacts of the bushmeat trade in African savannas, and on solutions necessary to address the problem (available from http://www.panthera.org/sites/default/files/bushmeat%20report%20v2%20lo_0.pdf). That report was subsequently condensed into a scientific publication, which has been published in Biological Conservation.  In addition, a policy brief was produced which outlined the issues in a succinct form for presentation to African governments.
The outputs of the technical workshop were then used as the basis to discuss this looming crisis with a number of Southern Africa Development Community member states at a workshop convened in October 2012 by the RWP and funded by the FAO SFS (SADC Subregional office). Rosie Cooney from SULi took part. Six wildlife authorities were present (Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa), with agricultural government representation from eight SADC member states. All participants agreed that the issue was of major concern and a set of guiding principles was drawn up for use by member states, the SADC Secretariat, development partners, conservation NGOs and other interested parties to guide efforts at regional, national and local levels to reduce the threat. The term “wild meat” in the principles refers to meat from wildlife as opposed to meat from any domesticated animal. Wild meat may be harvested and traded either legally or illegally and either sustainably or unsustainably. Wild meat can be sourced from a variety of areas including but not exclusively protected areas, community managed areas and game farms.
The technical report and the guiding principles were then formally tabled and presented at the 31st SADC Wildlife Technical Meeting held in Johannesburg on the 18th of February 2013. The issue was well received and support from the SADC Secretariat requested to develop a strategy, after full consultation of each relevant member state is carried out. Funding has also been sourced, primarily from FAO with support from SULi and the RWP for a 6 month consultancy carried out in partnership between the RWP, SULi, IUCN East and Southern Africa Office and TRAFFIC to document the economic impact of illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade, the results of which should be available by the end of 2013.

Dr Gianetta (Netty) Purchase is Lead Coordinator, Range wide programme for conservation at ZSL/WCS, Dr. Peter Lindsey is the Policy Initiative Coordinator for Panthera's Lion Program.

Photo - below and top right: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Credit: IUCN Photo Library-Sue Mainka.