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"The scale of wild meat consumption in East African refugee camps has helped conceal the failure of the international community to meet basic refugee needs," said George Jambiya, the main author of the report.

"Relief agencies are turning a blind eye to the real cause of the poaching and illegal trade: a lack of meat protein in refugees' rations," he added.

'Night-time spinach'
The TRAFFIC report, Night-time spinach: conservation and livelihood implications of wild meat use in refugee situations in north western Tanzania, analyzes the trend of covertly traded wild meat which is cooked after dark in refugee camps and called 'night time spinach'.

Rare species like chimpanzees are being threatened by the demand for meat as well as buffalo, sable antelope and other grazing animals.

European refugees treated fairer
TRAFFIC says that refugees are doubly penalized: their rights to minimum humanitarian care are not always being met and their own attempts to meet them are criminalized.

In contrast, humanitarian assistance to displaced populations in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia during the early 1990s included the provision of corned beef.

Food security needed
Conservation organizations believe a solution to the issue is to supply meat from legal and sustainable wild meat supplies, and stringent law enforcement.

"The sad reality is that those who most depend upon wild sources of food are usually the ones who pay the heaviest price for biodiversity loss," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director WWF's International Species Programme.

"WWF calls upon humanitarian agencies to provide for basic food security of refugees, including animal protein, to ensure a sustainable future for all," she added.

Call for agency partnerships
The report recommends closer partnerships between wildlife and humanitarian agencies, which have already showed progress to address other environmental impacts of refugee camps such as deforestation.

Since Tanzanian independence in 1961, more than 20 major refugee camps have been located close to game reserves, national parks or other protected areas; 13 of them still remained in 2005. In the mid-1990s, an estimated 7.5 tons of illegal wild meat was consumed weekly in the two main refugee camps.

TRAFFIC is a joint programme between WWF and the IUCN.

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