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Optimizing conservation policy: the importance of seasonal variation in hunting and meat consumption on the Masoala Peninsula of Madagascar

  • Cortni Borgerson (a1)

Studying seasonal hunting patterns can be critical for developing sound actions for conservation and public health. As availability of funds to implement conservation policy is limited, it is essential to focus efforts during the most critical times of year. During July 2011–June 2012 I recorded direct observations of hunting of forest mammals, and conducted daily 24-hour recall surveys (2 weeks per month over 11 months: August 2011–June 2012), and interviews of all households in a focal village on the Masoala Peninsula of Madagascar to investigate (1) what drives seasonal hunting patterns and (2) how seasonal variation in consumption of wildlife and domestic meat affects native species and people. There is marked seasonal variation in hunting of forest mammals and in the consumption of fish and domesticated livestock on the Masoala Peninsula. Hunters target bushpigs Potamochoerus larvatus and tenrec and lemur species during the austral winter (March–August), whereas more native and introduced carnivorans, fish and domesticated livestock are consumed during the austral summer (September–February). The results suggest that seasonal variation in hunting patterns is driven by the physical and behavioural characteristics of prey rather than seasonal scarcity of alternative meat. Seasonal hunting and meat consumption on the Masoala Peninsula may amplify the negative impact of hunting on native carnivorans and tenrecs (which are hunted when they are pregnant and lactating), and the positive impact of consumption of lemurs, bushpigs and tenrecs on human health. This study highlights an important aspect of hunting on the Masoala: the decision whether or not to hunt is made independently of decisions regarding when to hunt particular species.

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