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From: , Environmental Graffiti, More from this Affiliate
Published January 22, 2008 08:35 AM

There are no real winners in Africa's many tribal and political conflicts and the list of losers keeps growing.

Animal conservation groups say they have found a link between the decline of African wildlife, much of it threatenedor endangered, and refugee camps. It appears that a thriving black market in illegally caught meat has grown up in the camps due to the lack of animal protein provided by the international aid organizations that provide food for the camps.

Traffic, an organization that monitors the trade in wildlife, has found that bush meat is widely sold, cooked, and eaten in Tanzanian refugee camps. The animals affected are thought to include buffalo, chimps, and zebras.

Tanzania is host to the largest refugee population in Africa, mostly in camps along its western border. Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi have all had violent conflict in recent years and all lie very close to Tanzania, making the country a natural choice for fleeing refugees. But many of the country's wildlife refuges are in the same area as the refugee camps.

The true scale of the bush hunting issue is not yet known, but there have been sharp drops in animal numbers in wildlife parks after influxes of refugees in the past. After 600,000 refugees fled Rwanda in 1994 for a Tanzanian camp near Burigi National Park, animal numbers dropped significantly. Buffalo numbers went from more than 2,600 to just 44, and the 324 Liechtenstein Hartebeest antelopes completely disappeared from the park.