Date Published: May 22, 2015
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Sagan Friant, Sarah B. Paige, Tony L. Goldberg, Daniel G. Bausch. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0003792
Abstract: Bushmeat hunting threatens biodiversity and increases the risk of zoonotic pathogen transmission. Nevertheless, limited information exists on patterns of contact with wildlife in communities that practice bushmeat hunting, especially with respect to social drivers of hunting behavior. We used interview responses from hunters and non-hunters in rural hunting communities in Nigeria to: 1) quantify contact rates with wildlife, 2) identify specific hunting behaviors that increase frequency of contact, 3) identify socioeconomic factors that predispose individuals to hunt, and 4) measure perceptions of risk. Participants engaged in a variety of behaviors that increased contact with wild animals, including: butchering to sell (37%), being injured (14%), using body parts for traditional medicine (19%), collecting carcasses found in forests and/or farms (18%), and keeping as pets (16%). Hunters came into contact with wildlife significantly more than non-hunters, even through non-hunting exposure pathways. Participants reported hunting rodents (95%), ungulates (93%), carnivores (93%), primates (87%), and bats (42%), among other prey. Reported hunting frequencies within taxonomic groups of prey were different for different hunting behaviors. Young age, lower education level, larger household size, having a father who hunts, and cultural group were all associated with becoming a hunter. Fifty-five percent of respondents were aware that they could contract diseases from wild animals, but only 26% of these individuals reported taking protective measures. Overall, hunters in this setting frequently contact a diversity of prey in risky ways, and the decision to become a hunter stems from family tradition, modified by economic necessity. Conservation and public health interventions in such settings may be most efficient when they capitalize on local knowledge and target root socio-economic and cultural drivers that lead to hunting behavior. Importantly, interventions that target consumption alone will not be sufficient; other drivers and modes of interaction with wildlife must also be considered.
Partial Text: An estimated 282 grams of bushmeat are consumed per person per day in the Congo Basin, with over three million tons harvested in Central Africa annually [1,2]. Hunting of wild animals on this scale threatens wildlife conservation and increases risk of zoonotic disease transmission [3,4]. Rural communities across the tropical forests of West and Central Africa rely heavily on bushmeat as a nutritional, economic and cultural component of their livelihoods [5,6]. However, increasingly intense extraction is unsustainable and results in enhanced opportunities for zoonotic disease transmission . A general shift towards cash economies, increased access to previously remote areas for natural resource extraction, and widespread use of guns have altered traditional hunting behavior and increased dependency on the sale of bushmeat to meet urban demands [8–12]. Market surveys in Nigeria estimate that over 900,000 kilograms of bushmeat are sold annually . Large profit margins create incentives for the bushmeat trade across all levels of the supply chain, allowing bushmeat to reach national and international markets . In the Ivory Coast, for example, the bushmeat trade is valued at 150 million USD . An estimated five tons of bushmeat are smuggled from Africa to Europe per week . Worldwide, wildlife is second only to narcotics among black market trades .
We found that younger age, lower education level, larger household size, having a father who hunts, and being of the resident cultural group were all significantly associated with becoming a hunter. Hunters had more frequent contact with wildlife through both hunting and non-hunting behaviors, likely experiencing higher exposure risk to zoonosis than non-hunters. Specific hunting behaviors, namely high hunting frequency, hunting during both day and night, hunting specifically at night, and hunting with a gun and with a dog were all associated with high rates of contact with wildlife. Other behaviors were associated with higher rates of contact with specific taxa, namely: sleeping in the forest (primates), and using a machete and trap (ungulates). Carnivore and rodent hunting frequency was not uniquely associated with any specific hunting behaviors.