MARGARET CHISANGA, Lusaka
GAME meat is a delicacy enjoyed in most Zambian households. The promise of this delicacy being served is a sure way to win guests over for any matebeto or chilanga mulilo function.
As with most delicious things, its source is usually kept a secret.
“I have a client who delivers buffalo meat for me. Just tell me when you need it and I will deliver for you,” is a common phrase expected to come from a host serving such a meal.
The traders are even more secretive. Advertising is done by word of mouth, and the original supplier is usually never known.
Presenting the meat in packages wrapped in old newspapers held together by rope, a trader will usually allude to a supplier who only delivers at night. Pegged at K150 per bundle, the bundles are not weighed, and they’re definitely not labeled.
“If a supplier tells me they have Kudu, I will believe him and tell my customers am selling Kudu. I honestly have no way of telling one from the other, and I have no reason to think he would lie,” says a trader who prefers to remain anonymous.
However, the secrecy surrounding the source and name of the meat being sold seems to make the meat even more desirable.
“What most consumers do not realise is that the meat is not usually what the supplier says it is, and worse off has been acquired illegally,” Luwi Nguluka, awareness manager at the Wildlife Crime Prevention Unit said recently.
Launching a campaign dubbed “It’s not a game’ aimed at encouraging people to consume meat that has been legally killed and distributed with approval from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Ms Nguluka said it is risky to consume meat bought from illegal traders.
“Zambians must be advised to consume legal Zambian game meat legally distributed and approved by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife,” she said.
While Ms Nguluka phrased her sentences politely, the Department of National Parks And Wildlife director, Paul Zyambo put it more bluntly, and very honestly.
“We also know that illegal traders sometimes misrepresent the species of the meat that they are selling. Be careful you might be eating hyenas, baboons or dogs,” he said.
Mr Zyambo said the department partnered in the campaign because it is vital that consumers know the risks they face with every purchase.
“Through illegally acquired bush meat people risk being poisoned, affected with dangerous diseases, arrested and jailed. Illegal acquisition and trade in bush meat also present a major threat to our wildlife populations,” he said.
He said it is also important that people realise that they face greater risks to their health with the consumption of unknown meats.
“We have confiscated huge consignments of illegal bushmeat all over the country many of which contained a wide variety of animal species of which, we are sure, the consumer is not aware of the identity,” he said.
He also shared that illegal acquisition of bushmeat through snaring is silent and indiscriminate, harming species across the board from ungulates to carnivores and elephants.
“Further, the reduction in prey species numbers has an immediate effect on carnivore populations in protected area,” he said.
Mr Zyambo said to protect the species; the government has put in place measure to protect the wildlife.
According to the director, illegal possession of bushmeat is a crime under the Zambia Wildlife Act No.14 Of 2015 and may attract fines ranging from k96,000 – k192,000 or up to seven years imprisonment with other species attracting jail sentences of up to 5-10 years imprisonment with no option of fines.
And Wildlife Producers Association of Zambia (WPAZ), representative Jean Michel Pavy said the association of the private game ranchers is committed helping improve game ranching practices and inform Government about policies on game management.
Speaking during the launch, Mr Pavy said the Zambian consumer should be aware that there is safe and legally produced game meat,” he said.
“We are more than 100 game ranches in Zambia covering a little more than 6000 km2 altogether managing about 100,000 animals producing probably around 300 tonnes of meat per year. This is commendable but insignificant in comparison to the demand,” he said.
He, however, emphasised that this was not enough to provide the urban market, which is the highest consumer of game meat.
“Let me illustrate. Let’s imagine that the half of the two million people living in Lusaka eat once per month 100g of game meat. This is 1,200 tonnes of meat per year or about 240,000 impalas,” he said.
The entire game ranch production can satisfy no more than three months of this demand assuming the entire production goes to Lusaka.
“To reduce poaching our national game ranching capacity must increase by at least 10 to 100 times,” he said.
Mr Pavy said a suitable legal framework is required that encourages Zambian communities and foreign investors and farmers to allocate land for wildlife that actively produce game meat and help to increase the production of legal game meat.
While the department encourages citizens to spread this message to family members, friends and workmates, it remains to be seen whether this long tradition of consuming newspaper wrapped delicacies will stop.