New studies led by the University of Copenhagen say as many as 150 million rural households across the Global South may be involved in bushmeat hunting.
Hunting is prevalent in the 24 countries surveyed but only provides a small contribution to households and mainly for subsistence rather than for trade. The studies thus contradict earlier assumptions that hunting is increasingly commercial. The authors stress that rural food security and biodiversity conservation should be considered jointly.
However, credible scientific evidence has linked persistent decline and local extinction of numerous species across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to hunting for bushmeat and especially commercial hunting supplying urban bushmeat markets. The extent of wildlife depletion is in many locations so severe that it has been referred to as the ‘empty forest syndrome’ and the ‘bushmeat crisis’. Commercial bushmeat hunting is not only seen as a threat to biodiversity but also as compromising the livelihood of rural households relying on bushmeat as a source of protein and income.
The studies find that 39 percent of the sampled households hunts bushmeat but that this only contributes on average 2 percent of total household income – of which own consumption accounts for 89 percent. Reliance on bushmeat is highest among the poor and inversely related to reliance on domestic animal income.
Seasonally, reliance on bushmeat relates inversely to other incomes, suggesting that bushmeat hunting acts as a gap-filler when other incomes are low. On the community level bushmeat is more important in smaller more remote communities in the middle of the cash income distribution, with few domestic animals, and in countries characterised by poor governance and rising costs of living.