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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: August 2009

15 - Effects of subsistence hunting and forest types on the structure of Amazonian primate communities



Diurnal primates contribute a conspicuous component of the tropical forest vertebrate fauna (Terborgh, 1983; Bourlière, 1985), and are considered to be fair game species by subsistence and market hunters in most African (Fa et al., 1995; Oates, 1996; McRae, 1997), southeast Asian (Bennett et al., in press), and neotropical forests (Redford & Robinson, 1987; Peres, 1990). This is particularly the case for large-bodied species that are preferred by hunters because they yield the most amount of meat per unit of ammunition cost (Peres, 1990; Bodmer, 1995).

As sources of protein, however, primates are largely incompatible with a sustainable harvest regime because of their small litter sizes (typically one), long interbirth intervals, delayed age of first reproduction, heavy burden of prolonged parental investment, and in most species, severe competition for reproductive opportunities among the breeding members of the population (Smuts et al., 1987). These life-history and socioecological characteristics usually result in extremely low per capita reproductive rates which largely explain why primates and other long-lived mammals sharing a similar reproductive biology are so prone to severe reductions in numbers, if not local extinctions, when exposed to even relatively light hunting regimes. Yet overhunting of tropical forest vertebrates is now a rampant and nearly universal phenomenon (Robinson & Redford, 1991; Redford, 1992; Robinson & Bennett, in press), rendering primates particularly susceptible to widespread and profound shifts in population and community structure.

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