Effects of hunting and human disturbance on wildlife near villages in northeastern Gabon
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Bushmeat from wild animals is the primary source of protein and income for many rural communities in northeastern Gabon, but mammals also provide valuable ecosystem services that may be jeopardized by unsustainable hunting practices and human disturbance. In this study, we deployed nearly 200 camera traps over two years to investigate whether hunting and other forms of human disturbance resulting from resource extraction activities, such as logging, alter mammal communities in tropical forests. The results of our study indicate that hunting and human disturbance reduces large mammal abundance close to roads and in more populated areas. In particular, chimpanzees and mandrills occurred far from roads, possibly reflecting more intense hunting of these species either for meat or in retaliation for crop raiding. Low relative abundances may be partially offset by in-migration from source populations in remote forests, but the further expansion of logging roads could disrupt this buffering mechanism. Although we did not find any significant effects for medium mammals as a group, Peter’s duikers and white-bellied duikers responded negatively to hunting intensity and were more numerous farther from villages and Makokou. By contrast, small mammals, such as rats and brush-tailed porcupines, responded positively to the density of logging roads, suggesting that low abundances of medium and large mammals release them from predation and competition for resourcesor that disturbed forest provides a more favorable habitat for small mammals than primary forest. Our results indicate that anthropogenic factors strongly influence the abundances and distributions of species in our study and forecast wildlife communities dominated by small mammals in human disturbed areas. To ensure a sustainable supply of animal protein for rural people, rural communities must actively manage their forests for wildlife. Wildlife management systems near villages should include a quota system that allows year-round hunting of small mammals, but limits hunting of large mammals to specific months, seasons, and areas. Government- or NGO-funded compensation for crop damage could ease the antipathy towards animals and conservation, and funding of community-led wildlife monitoring could raise awareness of the effects of hunting and the ecological and livelihood benefits of large mammals. Likewise, forestry operations should prohibit hunting in their concessions, and actively enforce regulations against hunting and use of logging roads.
CitationMacCarthy, James (2018). Effects of hunting and human disturbance on wildlife near villages in northeastern Gabon. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/16616.
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