Hunting or not hunting: understanding livelihood production at the Bird’s Head Peninsula

Freddy Pattiselanno (Animal Science Laboratory Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari)

Wildlife hunting not only provides nutrition and economic value to communities, it may also offer other forms of income generation. Some wild animals are hunted to obtain medicine for human therapies and other traditional uses as well. Furthermore, wild animals are hunted to obtain trophies (most often skins, teeth, antlers and horns) that are used as cultural artefacts or for personal adornment.

The preferences of subsistence hunters for different wildlife species are usually influenced by their main economic activity, access to domestic meat, ethnic origin, geographical isolation, local wildlife availability and the biological attributes of species that are hunted. In addition, other factors have also influenced the hunting prey preference, such as the social, cultural and political characteristics of ethnic groups.

The reliance of humans on wildlife can affect harvest rates. Surveys from different parts of the world demonstrated the link between reliance on wildlife and harvest rate. As summarised by Milner-Gullandet al.(2003), an annual wild meat harvest is 23 500 tonnes in Sarawak (Malaysia), 67 000– 164 000 tonnes in the Brazilian Amazon and 1 million–3.4 million tonnes in Central Africa,while for the Neotropical and Afrotropical regions, over 5 million tonnes of wild mammal meat supplies meals for millions of people (Fa, Peres & Meeuwig, 2002).

In Asia, Bennett and Rao (2002) revealed that in a single food market at That Luang, sales of wild meat amounted to between 8,000 and 10,000 for mammals, 6,000 to 7,000 birds, and 3,000 to 4,000 reptiles. In North Sulawesi, Indonesia, mammal species that have been harvested and traded for local markets included forest rats (50,000 to 75,000 per year), and bats (up to 15,000 per year) (Clayton & Milner-Gulland, 2000).

In Papua New Guinea, a study by Mack and West (2005)found that over 1.8 tonnes of vertebrate biomass came from mammals and birds during the seventh months of the survey, and about 80% of this originated from a handful of genera: Sus, Casuarius, Phalanger, Spilocuscus, Dendrolagus, and Zaglossus.

Ready access to undisturbed and remaining forests as a result of the spread of roads and forest fragmentation is a factor affecting the exploitation of bushmeat (Robinson & Bennett, 2000; Milner-Gullandet al.,2003; Refisch&Koné, 2005 and Fa, Ryan & Bell, 2005). The need of animal protein source to meet human population growth is also another factor affecting exploitation of wildlife. Available alternative protein from marine sources and increase in livestock and aquaculture production has also been greatly affected the consumption of bushmeat (Rowcliffe, Milner-Gulland & Cowlishaw, 2005).

Study on indigenous hunting at the Bird’s Head Peninsula was conducted to have better understanding of its impact on biodiversity and its contribution to local livelihood. Students from Animal Science and Biology Department of Universitas Negeri Papua are involved as volunteer students in assisting for data collection during field work and carried out their thesis research focusing on: Alternative protein sources, Ethnobiology of local communities and Bat distribution at the BHP.

Rufford Small Grant (10569-1), Seed Fund for Research and Training (GCS11-4203) (SFRT) Program of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (For Protecting Rainforests through Research and Education) provided funding for this research. I also received support from the Australian Development Scholarship (ADS-AusAID), James Cook University-School of Marine and Tropical Biology (JCU-SMTB) and UniversitasNegeri Papua (UNIPA).

For further information on this study, please visit RSG website (

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