Effects of hunting and human disturbance on wildlife in northeastern Gabon

Authors: James MacCarthy*, FHI 360, John Poulsen, Duke University
Topics: Environment, Natural Resources
Keywords: wildlife, conservation, bushmeat, mammals, hunting, human disturbance, Gabon, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Bushmeat from wild animals is the primary source of protein and income for many rural communities in Gabon but unsustainable hunting practices and other forms of human disturbance may jeopardize the valuable ecosystem services these animals provide. To investigate whether current levels of hunting and human disturbance are altering mammal communities, we deployed nearly 200 camera traps across tropical forests in northeastern Gabon for two years. The results of our study suggest current levels of hunting and human disturbance are reducing large mammal abundances close to roads and populated areas with chimpanzees and mandrills occurring more frequently far from roads and Peter’s and white-bellied duikers occurring more frequently away from villages and cities. In contrast, small mammals appear more frequently in areas with a higher density of logging roads. Low relative abundances for larger species could be offset by migration from populations in less disturbed forests, but the expansion of logging roads in these areas can easily disrupt that process. The high abundance of small mammals in disturbed areas might result from a preference for disturbed forests or lower rates of predation and competition due to a reduction in the number of medium and large mammals. The results of our study indicate that anthropogenic factors strongly influence the abundance and distribution of species and may lead to wildlife communities dominated by small mammals in human disturbed areas. Wildlife management systems near villages should impose limits on hunting large mammals to minimize the effect of hunting on wildlife in this area.

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