Bushmeat trade is a threat to biodiversity in Africa. Information about the bushmeat value chain can inform conservation policies, yet such knowledge is lacking for most of East Africa. We examine the structure and organization of bushmeat markets in three villages in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania, where illegal hunting is widespread. We base our analysis on 1,855 observations of trade during 1 year (2008–2009) and questionnaire interviews with 325 individuals involved in the trade in 2011. Our results reveal that the trade is large-scale both in volume (1,100 animals, equivalent to 370,000 kg meat per year) and local turnover (USD 210,000 per year) and that several threatened species are hunted. There are no patron–client relationships and hunters, traders and retailers, which are the main actors involved, conduct only basic product upgrading (drying and making packages). The value chain is characterized by governance problems, including widespread rent-seeking and violent enforcement. Although hunting is open-access, lack of access to firearms constitutes an entry barrier, curbing supply and enabling actors to realize supernormal profits. Decentralization of management rights and responsibilities to communities, supplemented by improved firearms control, appears the most realistic option for regulating the trade and preventing further declines of wildlife.