Carnivores compose a critical part of their ecosystem, and therefore any impact we have on them will have a compounded affect on nature as a whole. Unfortunately though, for many forest dwelling carnivores particularly in developing nations, this human impact is often poorly understood.
In response to this fact, I completed a meta-analysis for my master’s thesis that would help us better understand the trends in local human hunting of carnivores across forested Africa, including Madagascar. A meta-analysis is a study that uses previously published research to analyze trends on a larger scale. It’s especially helpful when trying to find patterns on a large geographic scale, such as the entire African continent.
Through this work I was able to aggregate a great deal of information on the region, and discerned some surprising trends in which carnivores are being targeted, for what purpose, and what methods are being used to hunt them.
One of the most important finds of my thesis was in debunking an outdated concept that stated only few carnivores are being hunted, and that the main reason for this hunting is in response to the animals being nuisance species. My research showed that in fact many carnivores (including the usually ignored small carnivores like mongooses) are being hunted pervasively across forested Africa, and that the main reason for killing them is in actuality human consumption.
Even more striking, I found that these animals are not just being used by local individuals for consumption (known as bushmeat), or cultural purposes, but they are being transported and sold at urban markets for these reasons.
The implications of these findings are that carnivores are now an undismissable portion of wildlife products being used by humans. Therefore, the full extent of this use and the impact it has on carnivore populations, and their very complex ecosystems, is in dire need of clarification by future researchers and conservationists.
This research was published in 2014 in the journal Oryx. Please check out the full article and supplementary materials for more detailed research findings!
1 Leopard (redbubble.com/people/njones/works/5812196-leopard-panthera-pardus-moremi-game-reserve-botswana)
2 Common genet (naturfakta.no/dyr/?id=1469)
3 Cape clawless otter (nigeldennis.com/stock/pages/32.htm)
4 Marsh mongoose (zveridikie.ru/mangust.html)
5 African civet (flickr.com/photos/geoff-e/2254904036/)
6 Fossa (nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/biodiversity/endangered-species/cryptoprocta-ferox/index.html)
7 African palm civet (ddl.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/gabon/Mammifere/espece.asp?Action=Edit&espece_id=5)