African buffalo are a common target for bushmeat in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Bushmeat consumption, or “wildlife hunted for human consumption,” poses a significant threat to wildlife conservation all across the globe. But in Eastern Africa—where savannah grasslands flourish and big game roam free within ‘protected’ reserves—one may be forgiven to think that poaching does not occur here: but it does.
“It is difficult to know how to change people’s behavior without clear knowledge of the factors affecting bushmeat consumption,” write the authors of a new study in mongabay.com’s open-access Tropical Conservation Science.
In order to better understand the trade, the researchers interviewed indigenous groups (Pimbwe, Fipa and Rungwa) known for their bushmeat consumption as well as immigrant Sukuma groups “that have no strong reputation for being hunters,” the authors said. The groups were situated in villages bordering two protected areas: Katavi National Park and Rukwa Game Reserve.
Among the key questions, interviewees were asked how many animal carcasses entered their village every year and how often they consumed bushmeat during the month prior to interviewing.
Responses were cross referenced with household size, education (primary or secondary), distance of village to the nearest protected area and household wealth. Wealth was measured in 4 ways: area under cultivation (hectares), livestock ownership, poultry ownership and assets owned such as cell phone, radio, tin-roof etc.
“Unsurprisingly, we find that households nearer to protected area borders report more carcasses entering their villages regardless of ethnicity,” the authors state, adding “with respect to bushmeat consumption, the same pattern is seen for the indigenous sample.” Interestingly though, bushmeat consumption did not follow the same trends in the Sukuma sample.
Other factors for bushmeat consumption differ markedly between groups. Wealthier indigenous groups were found to consume more bushmeat.
“Pimbwe, Fipa and other indigenous populations of the Rukwa valley use their traditional sources of wealth to generate cash to purchase and consume bushmeat,” the researchers suggest.
But wealthier Sukuma groups did not consume as much bushmeat as poorer households, the study revealed.
“If this is a general result throughout the country, Tanzanian rural indigenous communities that experience economic growth may be having a negative impact on the nation’s wildlife,” the scientists speculate.
Notably, education levels were found to have no particular effect on either the perception of bushmeat availability or its consumption.
To mitigate the loss of wildlife to bushmeat consumption the authors recommend outreach programs designed to reduce bushmeat by targeting both hunters near the boundaries of protected areas and consumers located throughout the division. The scientists add that programs should focus on land-rich households and cautious consideration should be given to protein supplementation for solving the bushmeat problem.
The principal species hunted for bushmeat include impala (Aepyceros melampus), common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), warthog (Phacocherus africanus), buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus).
CITATION: Mgawe, P., Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Caro, T., Martin, A., and Kiffner, C. 2012. Factors affecting bushmeat consumption in the Katavi-Rukwa ecosystem of Tanzania. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(4):446-462.
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