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Bushmeat consumption differs between communities in Tanzania

African Buffalo is a target for hunters in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
African Buffalo is a target for hunters in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Bushmeat consumption depends on the make-up of individual communities, according to a new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. By interviewing indigenous groups and refugees living near two protected areas in western Tanzania, researchers found that consumption rates differed significantly, likely based on costliness and access.

“Illegal hunting is well documented and may be driving wild mammal population declines,” the researchers write of Tanzania’s Katavi National Park and the Rukwa Game Reserve. The region, known as the Katavi-Rukwa ecosystem, is also home to two different communities: the Mpimbwe indigenous people and the Katumba people, living in refugee camps.

Through detailed interviews, researchers found that 85 percent of Mpimbwe reported using bushmeat, while only 52 percent Katumba did the same. The Mpimbwe also reported eating bushmeat more frequently, while consuming less eggs and pork.

The researchers believe these difference are not driven by cultural tastes, but by less domestic protein and closer access to wildlife for Mpimbwe communities, and the higher cost of bushmeat in Kayumba.

Notably, very few of those eating bushmeat (only up to 2 percent in the Mpimbwe) actually reported participating in hunting, though some may be reluctant to admit to an illegal activity.

Of course, the community interviews also showed some similarities.

“Mpimbwe and Katumba residents hunted using the same sort of weapons, muzzle loaders; and most of the hunting was carried out in [Katavi National Park]. In addition, residents of both areas are in agreement that hunting was declining,” the scientists write.

To mitigate the loss of wildlife to bushmeat, the authors recommend reducing the local price of domestic meat, increasing enforcement, education programs, and giving revenue to communities from tourism. In addition, the scientists support on-going programs to raise more chickens and pigs in Mpimbwe communities.

“By Tanzanian law, killing large and medium-sized wild mammals is illegal without a license, but a number of studies now show it to be widespread in the country,” the authors write noting that the primary species targeted in the Katavi-Rukwa ecosystem are impala (Aepyceros melampus), common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), warthog (Phacocherus africanus), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), bushpig (Potamochoerus porcus) and zebra (Equus quagga).

CITATION: Martin, A., Caro, T., and Borgerhoff Mulder, M. 2012. Bushmeat consumption in western Tanzania: a comparative analysis from the same ecosystem. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(3):352-364.

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