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The role of bushmeat in a West African agricultural landscape

  • Justine Shanti Alexander (a1), James McNamara (a1), J. Marcus Rowcliffe (a2), James Oppong (a3) and E.J. Milner-Gulland (a1)...

There is little information on the changing role of bushmeat hunting in the agricultural areas of West Africa. We assessed the status and role of bushmeat hunting and rural consumption in three communities in Ghana, through household surveys (n = 250), and interviews with hunters (n = 69), eatery owners (n = 18) and bushmeat traders (n = 3). Hunting was embedded within dynamic livelihood strategies, with two broad categories of hunters identified: a large group who targeted pests on their own farms using traps, and a smaller group of professional hunters. The professional hunters included a group of young men who hunted with dogs, and another group of older firearm hunters who tended to be members of Hunters’ Associations. All professional hunters reported a decline in bushmeat availability and expressed concerns about the viability of hunting as a livelihood. The frequency of consumption of bushmeat increased with distance from the region's main urban centre, Kumasi, but bushmeat was not found to be a major component of the diet in any of the villages. Few men self-identified as hunters, although bushmeat hunting continued to play an important role in the rural economy, primarily for crop protection. Conservation efforts need to consider the full spectrum of hunting behaviours. Specific measures should target forest-based hunters, who are more likely to damage forest ecosystems than crop pest hunters but also show more concern for the sustainability of hunting, and commitment to hunting as an institution.

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