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Social and Ecological Change over a Decade in a Village Hunting System, Central Gabon

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Abstract

Despite widespread recognition of the major threat to tropical forest biological diversity and local food security posed by unsustainable bushmeat hunting, virtually no long‐term studies tracking the socioecological dynamics of hunting systems have been conducted. We interviewed local hunters and collected detailed hunting data to investigate changes in offtake and hunter characteristics over 10 years (2001–2010) in Dibouka and Kouagna villages, central Gabon, in the context of hunter recollections of longer term trends since the 1950s. To control for changes in hunter behavior, such as trap location and characteristics, we report hunting offtake data per trap. Our results suggest the hunting area was already highly depleted by 2001; local hunters reported that 16 large‐bodied prey species had become rare or locally extirpated over the last 60 years. Overall, we observed no significant declines in hunting offtake or changes in species composition from 2001 to 2010, and offtakes per trap increased slightly between 2004 and 2010. However, trapping distance from the villages increased, and there was a switch in hunting techniques; a larger proportion of the catch was hunted with guns in 2010. The number of hunters declined by 20% from 2004 to 2010, and male livelihood activities shifted away from hunting. Hunters with the lowest hunting incomes in 2004 were more likely than successful hunters to have moved away from the village by 2010 (often in response to alternative employment opportunities). Therefore, changes in trap success (potentially related to biological factors) were interacting with system‐level changes in hunter number and composition (related to external socioeconomic factors) to produce a relatively static overall offtake. Our results highlight the importance of understanding the small‐scale context of hunting to correctly interpret changes or apparent stasis in hunting effort and offtake over time.

Cambio Social y Ecológico a lo Largo de Una Década en un Sistema de Cacería Aldeana, Gabón Central
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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