Prey preferences of bushmeat hunters in an East African savannah ecosystem
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- Martin, A., Caro, T. & Kiffner, C. Eur J Wildl Res (2013) 59: 137. doi:10.1007/s10344-012-0657-8
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Prey preferences of top carnivores in African ecosystems are well known, but far less is understood about the preferences of human hunters and the effects of their hunting activities. We interviewed 82 hunters living in Mpimbwe Division adjacent to Katavi National Park and Rukwa Game Reserve in western Tanzania. We compared stated preferences for different species of mammals with that reportedly hunted, and we used reportedly hunted species in Jacob's indices to examine proportional offtake of each species that would be expected as based on both encounters and density estimates of the wildlife species. Then, using general linear models, we tested whether the derived indices of preference were affected by the proportional density, habitat preference, and body mass of the mammalian prey species. We found that hunters would like to kill large mammals but, instead, hunt opportunistically when they cannot realize these preferences and so end up taking smaller species than would be expected. We found that a surprising amount of rarer species is taken in this ecosystem. Our study helps to unveil novel information that wildlife managers can use to predict what hunters take most from protected areas, and it highlights the importance of treating humans as apex predators in modern day Africa.