All about hunting in tropical forests

Freddy Pattiselanno (Animal Science Department Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari, Indonesia)


Hudson (1989) identifies hunting as one of four wildlife production systems based on management intensity. In hunting, animals are captured from the wild usually for subsistence, commercial and recreational or sport purposes.  Different from hunting for sport, subsistence and commercial hunting are important because hunters in tropical forests take a wide variety of animals (Robinson and Bodmer, 1999).

Sport hunting on the other hand, usually focus on specific luxury preys. Due to the commercial components attached, sport hunting preys usually are market demand animals for trophies, so hunters only hunt for the specific target that they paid for, like large carnivores: lions, leopards, cougars and black bears (Packer et al., 2009).  It has been argued, sport hunting is saleable commodity, therefore, hunters prepare to pay for a commercial element on sport hunting, though sometimes sport hunting is undertaken primarily for leisure (Loveridge et al., 2006).

The importance of hunting

In Africa and Southeast Asia, tropical-forest people have been hunting wildlife for food approximately at least 40,000 years, while in Latin America it has been carried out for at least 10,000 years, and today many peoples across the tropics continue the practice (Bahuchet, 1993; Zuraina, 1982 and Roosevelt et al., 1996 as cited by Bennett, 2002).

Hunting is also conducted for economic reason, that offers other forms of  income generation (Milner-Gulland, Bennett & the SCB 2002 Annual Meeting Wild Meat Group, 2003), because studies around the world indicated that marginal people, or in majority, people with low economic level are those involving in hunting.  However, hunting is considered as a part of important business, because in the country like Côte d’Ivoire it significantly contributed to 1.4% of the Gross National Products (Williamson, 2002).

Wildlife hunting is very important in some parts of the world because of the use of animal derivatives in human health that, affect hunting on particular species like tigers in some Asian countries (Corlett, 2007). The acquisition of animal parts as cultural artifacts or trophies has been long recognised among the rural tropic communities (Robinson & Bennett, 2000). These express the role of hunting in human spiritual and cultural systems.

However, the reliance of humans on wildlife can affect harvest rates, and may contribute to the decrease of wildlife population.  Surveys from different parts of the world demonstrated the link between reliance of wildlife and harvest rate. For example, in central Africa about 645kg/km2 of wild meat are extracted annually, while the maximum sustainable production of wild meat from tropical forests does not exceed 102kg/km2/year (Wilkie & Carpenter, 1999).

Studies on hunting in Africa, North America and Asia have been widely published, and suggested that hunting was no longer sustainable, because it greater affected the terrestrial wild animal populations known as “empty forest” (Redford, 1992), and possessed a substantial threat to biodiversity.

Factors affecting hunting

A number of factors have been identified that affect wildlife hunting in tropical forests.   Firstly, hunting pressure was often associated with the boost in demand for wild meat, along with the increase in human population (Robinson & Bennett, 2000).  In 2008 for instance, Asia had 4 billion peoples with population density 89/km2; Africa with 1 billion with population density 30.51/km2, and Latin America about 580 millions with population density 27/km2.

Furthermore, increases access to forest sites by the establishment of road connections also a factor that effects hunting, because available road creates new entry points and provides access to hunters and traders to unexploited forest sites and links wildlife resource with available markets as well (Lee, 2000; Fa et al., 2005).

In remote rural forest areas, because of the difficulty accessing markets and alternative sources, indigenous people rely on wild meat from hunting (Bennett, 2002).  It is more often, their skills and cultural context sometimes make them hard to produce alternative protein sources.

Shifting from traditional hunting weapons into modern ones such as guns, flash lights and vehicles made wildlife hunting more efficient and these were further factors that had great impact on the increase of harvest rates (Fa et al., 2002 and Refisch & Koné, 2005).

High preferrence of bushmeat for food and loss of traditional hunting controls such as taboos or restrictions have also been identified as other factors affecting hunting (Robinson & Bennett, 2000; Fa et al., 2005, Pangau-Adam & Noske, 2010).

What should be done?

It is crucially important to do immediate actions and research as well to ensure what we plan to do is having their desired effects.  Combining long term surveys of markets, households and wildlife populations is necessary to cover the whole picture for a sustainable wildlife population.  Milner-Gulland et al. (2003) suggested a number of consensuses including:

  • The need of effective protected areas
  • Effectively enforced bans on hunting, especially vulnerable species
  • Increase public awareness on selling and eating wild animal species
  • Increase a capacity building

Note:  compiled from different sources for reading materials, and some images are taken from website.

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