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June 13th, 2008
09:55 AM ET

The hunt for food

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Thursday I did something I am unlikely to ever do again in my life. For eight hours, I trekked through a jungle in southern Cameroon. Now, I have been on hikes before, but this was unlike anything I ever experienced. As soon as we entered the jungle with a local hunter named Dede Donddong, we were immersed in the feel of the wild.

You could immediately hear the sounds of hornbills and an African gray parrot in the distance, loud and melodious. You could also feel the intense heat and humidity uniquely experienced in a jungle. Within seconds, we were drenched. You could smell the centuries of foliage mixed with the live scent of animals. Everything around us was green, almost unimaginably thick. I didn’t know how we would even make our way through, as there wasn’t a path that I could immediately see. Dede smiled and wielded a machete. He started a path and began our journey. 

For us, it was the pursuit of a story for “Planet in Peril,” looking at the bush meat trade and the reliance of locals on these animals for protein. For Dede, it was a mandatory trip to find some sort of bush animal, so that his family might eat that night. As we left, his three kids, two parents, his wife, and three neighbors bade him farewell and good luck. They were all hoping he would come home with something, really anything. But, his kids told us their favorite bush meat was porcupine. Yes, porcupine.  Along with snakes, rodents, primates, antelope and many other animals, they are collectively referred to as bush meat.

We learned about the concerns of a bush meat crisis in Western and Central Africa. According to some estimates, 4.5 million tons of bush meat was extracted from the Congo basin last year, putting a few animals on the endangered list, and a few others on the protected status list. In fact, the ape population in 96 percent of protected areas is declining. Within the next 10-50 years, the apes face extinction. Excessive hunting, along with deforestation is a large part of the problem.

There is no question Dede alone is not to blame. And, don’t forget, his family is dependent on his ability to hunt and bring bush meat back to the village. Buying food from bigger villages is simply not an option - the towns are too far away and the food is too expensive. What I’ve seen is a part of the daily life and culture for so many living in the jungle. Still, the bush meat crisis appears to be real, with no evidence of slowing down. This is one example of the global food crisis in Central Africa.

Oh, and by the way, Dede brought home a porcupine and his kids were happy.

This blog was brought to you from the southern jungles of Cameroon.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Brandon Kiggo

    I have looked for sources of AIDS and Ebola and discovered conflicting reports by reknown scientists.
    For CNN to claim Africa gave them to us is unacceptable.

    June 16, 2008 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. James Mokua

    'But of course, Africa is the hub of all pathogens that are responsible for most if not all incurable diseases'!!!! Well i'd like to point out that wild meat: such as snakes, rats etc have been a delicacy in some parts of Asia. But then again, thats Asia and Africa is just another statistic thanks to the bias reporting of the media.

    I however take solace in knowing that the truth shall prevail, and we're not too far away from it. God Bless Africa

    June 17, 2008 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.