Global biodiversity is threatened by unsustainable exploitation for subsistence and commerce, and tropical forests are facing a hunting crisis. In Central African forests, hunting pressure has been quantified by monitoring changes in the abundance of affected species and by studying wild meat consumption, trade and hunter behaviour. However, a proportion of offtake is also discarded as bycatch or consumed by hunters when working, which can be overlooked by these methods. For example, remains of hornbills and raptors are found regularly in hunting camps but relatively few birds are consumed in households or traded in markets. Hornbill and raptor populations are sensitive to small increases in mortality because of their low intrinsic population growth rates, however, the scale and socioeconomic drivers of the cryptic hunting pressure affecting these species have not been quantified. We used direct and indirect questioning and mixed-effects models to quantify the socioeconomic predictors, scale and seasonality of illegal bird hunting and consumption in Littoral Region, Cameroon. We predicted that younger, unemployed men with low educational attainment (i.e. hunters) would consume birds more often than other demographics, and that relative offtake would be higher than expected based on results from village and market-based studies. We found that birds were primarily hunted and consumed by unemployed men during the dry season but, in contrast to expectations, we found that hunting prevalence increased with educational attainment. Within unemployed men educated to primary level (240 of 675 respondents in 19 villages), we estimated an average of 29 hornbills and eight raptors (compared with 19 pangolins) were consumed per month during the study period (Feb–Jun 2015) in a catchment of c.1135 km2. We conclude that large forest birds face greater hunting pressure than previously recognised, and birds are a regular source of protein for men during unemployment. Offtake levels may be unsustainable for some raptors and hornbills based on life history traits but in the absence of sufficient baseline ecological and population data we recommend that a social-ecological modeling approach is used in future to quantify hunting sustainability.
- Illegal hunting
- Wild meat