Can Raising Cane Rats Solve Africa's Hunger Problems?

Ever seen cane rats? Look at the picture above--they're huge! Bigger than a chicken,  almost the size of a suckling pig. They also might be the solution to Africa's persistent hunger problems, according to an international organization committed to protecting endangered species.

The problem at hand for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which organized the conference, was the persistence of Africans eating bushmeat, almost always taken from the wild in unsustainable methods and usually culling already-threatened species. Most of the killing of such animals happens due to hunger, an issue CITES and CBD understand, especially as Africa undergoes a population explosion and a Westernizing of its diet--which means more meat. Raising more livestock would just exacerbate the situation: according to a Scientific American article, "replacing bushmeat with beef in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone would require converting 80 percent of the country to cow pastures."

The solution? Those big-ass critters above, which Africans already eat--as bushmeat. But by growing them on farms, CITES and CBD argue, the demand on the land would lessen, as would bushmeat.

And how does cane rat taste? A report earlier this year on Public Radio International's The World described it as "succulent and sweet." Fascinating...

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