Saving rodents, losing primates: Why we need tailored bushmeat management strategies

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1. Efforts to curb the unsustainable wildlife trade in tropical forests conceptualize bushmeat as a generic resource, exploited by a homogeneous group. However, bushmeat is composed of miscellaneous species differing in risks of zoonotic disease transmissions, sensitivity to hunting and abundance. If people choose these species for varying reasons, mitigation approaches that neglect specific drivers would likely target abundant species, e.g. rodents. Meanwhile, rare species of greater conservation relevance, like many primates, would be overlooked. Additionally, if reasons vary between user groups, their responsiveness to interventions may differ too.
2. We assessed this possibility for three common strategies to mitigate bushmeat use, which are: development‐based—reducing reliance on bushmeat; educational—increasing environmental and school education; and cultural—promoting environmentally friendly habits.
3. We interviewed 348 hunters, 202 traders and 985 consumers of bushmeat around Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, and tested if factors related to the above strategies affected selection for primates, duikers and rodents.
4. Our analyses revealed that people chose taxa for very different reasons. Users with shared characteristics favoured similar taxa; hunters economically reliant on bushmeat income targeted primates and duikers, while hunters and consumers nutritionally reliant on wildlife protein preferred rodents. Different groups used the same taxa for varying reasons. For example, hunting of primates was associated with economic needs, while their consumption appeared a matter of status. Meanwhile, cultural habits, like religion, specifically affected consumption and taboos inhibited the use of primates; environmental awareness was linked to lower utilization of most taxa within most user groups.
5. Our results demonstrate that educational‐, cultural‐, and development‐based strategies may address different needs and taxa. Consumers may present a key target group, as they rejected rare species for multiple cultural and educational reasons. Notably, the widespread effect of environmental awareness could facilitate large‐scale demand‐reduction approaches. Nevertheless, there is no one‐size‐fits‐all solution and campaigns need to be tailored to specific taxa and user groups. Ultimately, clear target definitions, prior in‐depth research, community‐driven solutions and tools from marketing and psychology may help to design novel strategies that encompass the diversity of bushmeat species and its users.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPeople and Nature
Number of pages14
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2020

ID: 244957241