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Role of Prices and Wealth in Consumer Demand for Bushmeat in Gabon, Central Africa

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Unsustainable hunting of wildlife for food is often a more immediate and significant threat to the conservation of biological diversity in tropical forests than deforestation. Why people eat wildlife is debated. Some may eat bushmeat because they can afford it; others may eat it because it is familiar, traditional, confers prestige, tastes good, or adds variety. We completed a survey of 1208 rural and urban households in Gabon, Africa, in 2002–2003 to estimate the effect of wealth and prices on the consumption of wildlife and other sources of animal protein. Consumption of bushmeat, fish, chicken, and livestock increased with increasing household wealth, and as the price of these commodities rose, consumption declined. Although the prices of substitutes for bushmeat did not significantly, in statistical terms, influence bushmeat consumption, as the price of wildlife increased and its consumption fell, the consumption of fish rose, indicating that fish and bushmeat were dietary substitutes. Our results suggest that policy makers can use economic levers such as taxation or supply reduction through better law enforcement to change demand for wildlife. These measures will help to regulate unsustainable exploitation and reduce the risk of irreversible loss of large-bodied and slow-reproducing wildlife species. If policy makers focus solely on reducing the unsustainable consumption of wildlife, they may see adverse impacts on the exploitation of fish. Furthermore, policy makers must ensure that raising household wealth through development assistance does not result in undesirable impacts on the conservation status of wildlife and fish.
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Keywords: bushmeat trade; comercio de carne silvestre; conservación de vida silvestre; consumo de vida silvestre; wildlife conservation; wildlife consumption

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Wildlife Conservation Society, 18 Clark Lane, Waltham, MA 02451-1823, U.S.A., Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, United Kingdom 3: Direction de la Faune et de la Chasse, Ministère des Eaux et Forêts, B.P. 1128, Libreville, Gabon, Africa 4: Centre International de Recherches Médicales, B.P. 769, Franceville, Gabon, Africa 5: Sustainable International Development Program, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, U.S.A.

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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