Paris The traders sell an array of bushmeat: monkey carcasses, smoked anteater, even preserved porcupine.
But this isn’t a roadside market in Africa — it’s the heart of Paris, where a new study has found more than five tons of bushmeat slips through the city’s main airport each week.
Experts suspect similar amounts are arriving in other European hubs as well — an illegal trade that is raising concerns about diseases ranging from monkeypox to Ebola, and is another twist in the continent’s struggle to integrate a growing African immigrant population.
The research, the first time experts have documented how much bushmeat is smuggled into any European city, was published today in the journal Conservation Letters.
“It is quite surprising the volumes that are coming through,” said Marcus Rowcliffe, a research fellow of the Zoological Society of London and one of the study’s authors.
In the Chateau Rouge neighborhood in central Paris, bushmeat is on the menu — at least for those in the know. Madame Toukine, an African woman in her 50s, said she receives special deliveries of crocodile and other bushmeat each weekend at her green and yellow shop off the Rue des Poissonieres market. She wouldn’t give her full name for fear of being arrested.
For the study, European experts checked 29 Air France flights from Central and West Africa that landed at Paris’ Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport over a 17-day period in June 2008. Of 134 people searched, nine had bushmeat and 83 had livestock or fish.
Experts found 11 types of bushmeat including monkeys, large rats, crocodiles, small antelopes and pangolins, or anteaters. Almost 40 percent were listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Based on what officials seized — 414 pounds of bushmeat — the researchers estimated that about five tons of bushmeat gets into Paris each week.
Scientists warned eating bushmeat was a potential health hazard. Malcolm Bennett, of Britain’s National Centre for Zoonosis Research at the University of Liverpool, said bushmeat had a higher risk of bacteria like salmonella and might also be carrying new diseases.