bushmeat study

between 1997 and late-2010, more than 197,000 animals...

…passed through the Malabo bushmeat market, including over 35,000 monkeys.


Wild game, known in Africa as bushmeat, is consumed as a delicacy on Bioko Island. It ranges from tiny blue duikers to endangered monkeys to massive marine turtles. Because bushmeat is relatively scarce, and growing scarcer, it is priced well above other protein sources such as fish, beef or chicken. As Malabo becomes more prosperous, demand for bushmeat grows, driving prices higher and enticing more local people to hunt wildlife for profit.


Since 1997, BBPP has conducted a survey of animals for sale at the Malabo bushmeat market. Our experienced census taker visits the market six days a week, recording the species, sex, approximate age (infant, juvenile, adult), source, method of capture (gun, dog, snare, by hand), condition (live, freshly killed, dried) and sale price of each animal.


By late 2010, a total of over 4,000 days of bushmeat market information had been collected. Unfortunately, after declining for the first five years of the survey, the rate of monkey harvest on Bioko Island increased abruptly in 2002, and now appears to have increased again in 2005. A number of factors probably contributed to this increase:

  • Increased Profitability: Bushmeat prices are rapidly increasing, making hunting more profitable, even when hunters must travel greater distances.
  • Increased Demand: Bushmeat buyers have benefited from Equatorial Guinea’s rapidly rising GDP (resulting from the development of offshore petroleum reserves) and have money to spend on bushmeat, even at higher prices. Monkeys are definitely a luxury meat.
  • Mardi Gras Effect: Shotgun hunting on Bioko Island is thought to be controlled by government officials who profit from bushmeat hunting. Inside sources reported alarm among these officials in anticipation of an enforced ban on the illegal shotgun hunting, especially of primates, in protected areas, initially as a result of the 2002 Bioko Biodiversity Roundtable and more recently, the National Biodiversity Policy for Equatorial Guinea, as proposed by Conservation International as part of their role in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.

Regardless of the cause, the final result is greatly increased hunting pressure on the larger forest animals, especially the monkeys, in the more remote parts of Bioko Island.


Monkey hunting makes a negligible contribution to Equatorial Guinea’s economy. The sale of primate meat on Bioko is, at most, an income supplement for shotgun hunters and their families, who represent less than 0.01 percent of the Island’s population. As a share of GDP, the hunting of Bioko’s monkeys accounts for 0.004 percent of the nation’s economy (assuming a 2005 GDP of $7.6 billion). As a share of the Island’s protein intake, monkey meat is, similarly, unimportant. Commercial hunting of monkeys satisfies less than 1 percent of the minimum protein requirement of the urban population.


In 2005, about sixty-five percent of bushmeat consumers were of Fang ethnicity, while 24 percent were Bubi. Consumers were wealthy relative to the population at large. The explosion of per capita income in Equatorial Guinea has been accompanied by higher prices for monkey meat, greater frequency of visits to the meat market. Rising prices for monkey meat have not dampened consumption of bushmeat.

The most common animals in the bushmeat market are Emin’s giant pouched rat (Cricetomys emini) and the blue duiker (Philantomba monticola). These animals have high reproductive rates and are usually captured by snare. Monkeys are the third most common market animal, and they are captured almost entirely by shotgun. BBPP favors a ban on shotgun hunting to protect monkeys, which reproduce more slowly, from extinction on the island.


BBPP has observed that, in addition to the 24 native species harvested as bushmeat, mainland species including giant pangolins (Manis gigantea), hinged-backed tortoises (Kinixys erosa) and crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis) were transported to the Malabo market to take advantage of the high prices.

niche models

One of the World's most endangered primates...

Pennant’s red colobus is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (2011). It has been repeatedly listed as one of the “World’s 25 most endangered primates” by Conservation International. It has never been kept successfully in captivity (maximum < 1 yr); consequently, there are currently no Pennant’s red colobus in recognized zoos or animal sanctuaries. The Bioko Island Pennant’s red colobus is one of seven monkey species found on Bioko Island. This species has a small documented natural range (< 250 km2) on the southwestern corner of the island, entirely within the borders of the Gran Caldera and Southern Highlands Scientific Reserve. Although national laws forbid hunting in protected areas, neither Pico Basile National Park in the northern part of Bioko Island nor the Gran Caldera and Southern Highlands Scientific Reserve has ever had any government protection.


Commercial hunting for a bushmeat market in the capital city of Malabo, located on the northern coast of Bioko Island, is the immediate cause of the decline in Bioko’s Pennant’s red colobus populations. Monitoring carcasses in the Malabo bushmeat market, ongoing by BBPP since 1997, continues to provide the numbers that inform conservation planning, including the evaluation of conservation strategies. The continuing BBPP presence in the marketplace is also a constant reminder to both buyers and sellers that trafficking in primate carcasses is illegal. The most effective supply side constraint on the primate bushmeat trade has been the deployment of BBPP forest wildlife patrols in the southwestern corner of Bioko Island, the same area that is now the only place left on Bioko Island where Pennant’s red colobus are still found.


In October 2011, BBPP received a grant from Wildlife Without Borders – Critically Endangered Species Conservation Fund to build on the momentum already created, encouraging the government of EG to finally enforce the ban on hunting primates. In April 2012, BBPP received a grant from the International Primatological Society to investigate the current distribution of Pennant's red colobus in the historical eastern extent of its range within the remote Ilyadi valley. Unfortunately, no evidence of red colobus was found during the surveys. Read more about the survey in BBPP researcher, Drew Cronin's manuscript, "Survey of Threatened Monkeys in the Iladyi River Valley Region, Southeastern Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea".


For more information please contact Dr. Drew Cronin (dtc33@drexel.edu).

Bioko microbiome project

Primates and their microbiomes share a long evolutionary history. Throughout primate evolution, gut microbiota have been important in defining critical metabolic pathways that have given rise to unique dietary adaptations because they facilitate host digestion, metabolism, production of vitamins, and immune response. Increasingly, studies have revealed that the bacterial communities in primate gastrointestinal tract are affected by a variety of factors (e.g., diet and habitat disturbance), but the external factors that influence composition of wild primate microbiomes and the abundance of specific microbial species remain controversial (Amato et al.2013; Gomez et al. 2015).  In addition, Bioko Island has diverse flora, fauna, and climatic conditions across the elevational gradient that could affect the gut flora of these species, thereby potentially offering a rich system to examine the factors that influence the diversity of the gut microbiome of non-human primate communities (McCord et al.2014).  The goal of this study is to describe the gut microbial diversity of all non-human primates on Bioko Island, determine what factors are influencing the gut composition, and what roles they play on niche competition between these closely related primates.


For more information please contact Bryan Featherstone, Ph.D. Student (bsf44@drexel.edu) or Matt Mitchell, Ph.D. (mwm59@drexel.edu)


All photos seen above are credited to National Geographic Photographers Tim Laman, Ian Nichols, Joel Sartore, and Christian Ziegler as well as numerous members of BBPP (staff, students, and volunteers).