Elizabeth L. Bennett (Wildlife Conservation Society)
Hunting is a greater problem in tropical forests than in many other habitats.
In this talk, I'll look at:
- Why hunting of tropical forest wildlife is such a problem;
- The current scale of hunting and wildlife trade;
- Very briefly, the potential impacts of disease on forest wildlife;
- Effects of hunting on wildlife populations, forest biodiversity, and forest peoples;
- What can be done about it.
Current scale of commercial trade:
- In Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 13,000 wild mammals sold/year
- Ho Chi Minh City has more than 1,500 restaurants selling wildlife meat
- In Pramuka market, Java, 1.5 million wild birds sold/year
- March 2008, 23 tonnes of frozen pangolins seized en route between Indonesia and China.
- 2000, Sumatra exported 25 tonnes of turtles per week to China.
World's largest importers of wildlife: USA, China
- 1992-2002, US trade in wildlife and wildlife products increased by 75%
- 2002, legal shipments of wild live animals into the US were > 38,000 mammals, 365,000 birds, 2 million reptiles, 49 million amphibians
- Unofficial estimates are that many tonnes of bushmeat from Africa are coming into the US every month
- China is thought to be the world's largest importer of turtles, ivory, tiger skins and bones, and pangolins, and is thought to be the most important market for many other species
- 2000, 25,000 turtles/week from Sumatra to China. This now down to 7,000, as turtle populations decline, and turtles are coming from elsewhere.
Quantifying is difficult since much of the trade in the endangered species is illegal, with many methods of concealment used...
Some more successful than others!
Some species are more vulnerable to hunting than others. Especially vulnerable species are ones which:
- Breed slowly
- Live or breed in large groups
- Have loud or conspicuous displays
- Are slow and easy to catch
So wildlife is vanishing. In Vietnam, 12 species of large animals have become extinct, or almost extinct, since 1950 as a result of hunting.
These include the kouprey... Eld's deer.... Siamese crocodile... and batagur...
And on the brink are the elephant and tiger.
Another contributor to "empty forests" -- disease.
In past 10 years, Ebola virus has reduced gorilla populations in parts of northwest Congo by up to 95%
The fungal disease chytridiomycosis is the devastating some amphibian populations. In the Neotropics, it is the greatest cause of amphibian extinctions.
Consequences of "empty forests":
Animals are vital to tropical forests
Species hunted first are large mammals and birds, which pollinate flowers, disperse seeds, and browse on plants
In some forests, 80% of trees depend on large animals to disperse their seeds
Hunting of prey can decimate predators: In India, human hunting can reduce tiger prey populations by up to 90%