The once very busy bush meat stalls at Doka village, Kaduna were empty last Tuesday. The only persons present were the bush meat sellers, about 12 of them, sitting with long faces, under a tent watching the mounts of smoked carcasses of all kinds of animals that had attracted the culinary desire of thousands, mostly travellers, each week. But all that seemed to have changed with the emergence of the Ebola virus in some parts of Nigeria.
The Doka bush meat market is the most popular in southern Kaduna, supplying families, hotels, restaurants and bars in adjoining towns and as far as Plateau and Nasarawa states as well as Abuja with smoked antelopes, primates, pythons, crocodiles, hares, porcupines, wild guinea fowls and even foxes among other animals.
The Ebola scare has since rattled Kaduna State residents to do away with meat from the animals, and the major victims are those involved in the business.
“I did not know the seriousness of the problem until I took my senior brother’s favourite meat to his home at GRA Unguwan Rimi sometimes last month”, said Dauda.
“His best bush meat is wild boa, roasted with salt and garlic. As usual, I rode on my motor bike for about one hour with the dried boa.”
“When the security guard saw me, he said he was going to inform my brother’s wife first if she would allow me to come in with the meat. That was very strange, because the house was as good as mine. The security guard came back and told me that madam said they had stopped eating bush meat and that my brother left instruction before he travelled out that no bush meat should be allowed into the house.
“The woman did not even have the respect of coming out to greet me, talk less of allowing me to have a cup of water and a meal.
“I left humiliated and sad. Since then, things have been very bad.”
All the sellers, many who were also hunters, were eager to tell their stories and denied that their meat had any virus.
“The five of us who attend ECWA Church here suffer in the hands of our people. Some of them said that we could bring in a disease that would kill everyone in the village. That we should be stopped from hunting, or forced to stop coming to church and mix with people,” complained Emmanuel Bako, 45.
“Some are just jealous of our progress and are using this Ebola matter to destroy us.”
“Look at us, why has none of us died?”, interrupted Andara Gom, 39.
“We kill these animals ourselves and prepare them.
“The countries where you have Ebola, maybe it is white men that catch the animals and feed them. You know the white man like giving all kinds of injection and feelings to wild animals.”
According to their estimates, on weekends, they make an average of N300,000 while on week days, sales averaged N60,000.
But with the Ebola scare, they barely make N15,000 on weekends and N5,000 on week days.
All their wholesale buyers, according to the bush meat sellers, have canceled their orders, citing non-patronage of the meat in restaurants and bars.
That means hard times for hunters.
The Doka bushmeat market actually gets its supply from forest reserves of over 500,000 hectares that stretch from Kachia Local Government Area, LGA, in Kaduna state, to the borders with Plateau and Bauchi. It also includes an additional 30,000 grazing reserve in Kachia LGA, all restricted from hunting and logging.
“We have been unable to stop hunters and loggers in those reserves”, said a source at the Kaduna Ministry of Agriculture who asked not to be identified.
“The hunters had simply overpowered our poorly paid and equipped forest guards. The truth is that some of the guards were also involved in the illegal business.
“Maybe God is indirectly helping the depleting animal population to multiply,” he said.