Bushmeat Sold on Open Market in U.S.

Conservationists call to stop illegal trade of bushmeat and protect animals.

ByABC News
December 11, 2009, 12:26 PM

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Dec. 11, 2009— -- Wild elephants are one of the most aggressive and feared animals in the jungle, but that doesn't stop poachers from risking it all to hunt them.

Poaching has become the number one threat to iconic, endangered animals like elephants, gorillas, bonobos, hippos, zebras, antelope and monkeys. But it's not elephant tusks they're after. It's food. Africans are literally eating away their natural heritage.

Andrea Turkalo, a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society who's studied elephants in the Central African Republic for 19 years, has seen this phenomenon take shape.

"We have people coming into areas that were never exploited and there's an abundance of game and they just see it as an unending source of meat," Turkalo said.

It's called bushmeat, and even though it's illegal, we found it openly sold in public markets.

"I've seen elephant meat, gorilla meat, several times here," one man told us. "Their grandfathers started eating elephants' and gorillas' meat -- they find that it tastes good."

On this desperately poor continent with ever-increasing populations of people, it's estimated that a million metric tons of bushmeat is eaten every year. That's the equivalent of 9 billion quarter pounders.

And you'd be surprised by where this meat is ending up now -- Queens, N.Y.

A professional investigator, who asked us not to reveal his name, took us to a market where he found what he said were stacks of meat from an animal called a "cane rat." It was being sold for $20 a pound.

We showed the undercover video to Crawford Allen, who investigates the illegal animal trade for the World Wildlife Fund.

"We know that [bushmeat's] readily available, not just in Queens, but in parts of Washington, D.C., parts of Minneapolis, St. Paul -- other centers around the country," Allen said. "It's because people have a passion for bushmeat. They want that taste from home."