Unsustainable exploitation of wild animals is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and to millions of people depending on wild meat for food and income. The international conservation and development community has committed to implementing plans for sustainable use of natural resources and has requested development of monitoring systems of bushmeat offtake and trade. Although offtake monitoring systems and indicators for marine species are more developed, information on harvesting terrestrial species is limited. Building on approaches developed to monitor exploitation of fisheries and population trends, we have proposed two novel indicators for harvested terrestrial species: the mean body mass indicator (MBMI) assessing whether hunters are relying increasingly on smaller species over time, as a measure of defaunation, by tracking body mass composition of harvested species within samples across various sites and dates; and the offtake pressure indicator (OPI) as a measure of harvesting pressure on groups of wild animals within a region by combining multiple time series of the number of harvested individuals across species. We applied these two indicators to recently compiled data for West and Central African mammals and birds. Our exploratory analyses show that the MBMI of harvested mammals decreased but that of birds rose between 1966/1975 and 2010. For both mammals and birds the OPI increased substantially during the observed time period. Given our results, time-series data and information collated from multiple sources are useful to investigate trends in body mass of hunted species and offtake volumes. In the absence of comprehensive monitoring systems, we suggest that the two indicators developed in our study are adequate proxies of wildlife offtake, which together with additional data can inform conservation policies and actions at regional and global scales.
Publication Year: 2015
Source: Ecology and Society 20(3): 40