The great demand for African bushmeat, both within Africa and in international markets, is emptying forests of wildlife and catalyzing outbreaks of wild animal diseases in humans. At a minimum, governments should zealously enforce bans on the hunting and consumption of bats and apes, two groups most commonly associated with Ebola. The fear and social unrest generated by the recent Ebola outbreak may spur governments to take such bans seriously with the vigilant support of a concerned populace. Yet reducing the trade in bushmeat will likely remain challenging due to the high demand and profits associated with it and the fact that it is widespread and pervasive throughout Africa.
One collective action, however, can immediately reduce the chance of future outbreaks and spread of Ebola and other wildlife-based diseases. The world needs to act together to stop the illegal trade in live wildlife. We can start today by enforcing existing laws and regulations at airports and transport hubs across Africa. The trade in live wildlife out of Africa moves infected animals through human trade routes. This results in considerable contact between the animal and people, such as wildlife traffickers, wildlife collectors, local transport drivers, airport cargo handlers, airline passengers, and the wider public in destination countries. For example, one sick chimpanzee illegally collected in Cameroon and transported through Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Senegal - all major airline hubs in the transport of wildlife out of West and Central Africa - can spawn an Ebola outbreak with tragic consequences like the ones we are suffering through today.