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Do large birds experience previously undetected levels of hunting pressure in the forests of Central and West Africa?

  • Robin C. Whytock (a1), Ralph Buij (a2), Munir Z. Virani (a3) and Bethan J. Morgan (a4)

The commercial bushmeat trade threatens numerous species in the forests of West and Central Africa. Hunters shoot and trap animals, which are transported to rural and urban markets for sale. Village-based surveys of hunter offtake and surveys of bushmeat markets have shown that mammals and reptiles are affected most, followed by birds. However, hunters also consume some animals in forest camps and these may have been overlooked in surveys that have focused on bushmeat extracted from the forest. A number of studies have used indirect methods, such as hunter diaries, to quantify this additional offtake but results can be difficult to verify. We examined discarded animal remains at 13 semi-permanent hunting camps in the Ebo Forest, Cameroon, over 272 days. Twenty-one species were identified from 49 carcasses, of which birds constituted 55%, mammals 43% and other taxa 2%. The mammals identified were typical of those recorded in previous bushmeat studies but we recorded several species of birds rarely recorded elsewhere. Offtake of bird species increased with mean body mass. We extrapolated our results to the 34 known hunting camps in the Ebo Forest and estimated that a minimum of 97 birds are hunted annually in a catchment area of c. 479 km2. We conclude that some bird species may be hunted more frequently than previous research suggests and this has important conservation implications for larger-bodied species such as raptors and hornbills.

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