Long-term trends in wildlife community structure and functional diversity in a village hunting zone in southeast Cameroon

  • Nikki TaggEmail author
  • Jacques Keumo Kuenbou
  • Daan Willem Laméris
  • Fany Michelle Kamkeng Meigang
  • Sévilor Kekeunou
  • Manfred Aimé Epanda
  • Jef Dupain
  • Donald Mbohli
  • Ian Redmond
  • Jacob Willie
Original Research


Hunting may be the greatest threat to wildlife populations across the Congo basin. Large-bodied species are the most vulnerable; alterations in assemblages of such keystone species can affect many important ecological functions. There may be a reduction or loss of ecological services, such as seed dispersal. Monitoring functional diversity within a wildlife community alongside descriptions of wildlife community structure (abundances and species richness) increases understanding of how well a system can withstand disturbance, or recover following it (i.e., its ecological resilience). Between 2002 and 2016, changes in wildlife abundance and diversity of functional traits related to resource use and energy flow were monitored in a tropical forest wildlife community in southeast Cameroon, where hunting activities have escalated in the last decade. Wildlife abundances significantly decreased by 2009, and species richness and functional diversity declined by 2016. This reduction in functional diversity suggests that the wildlife community has been considerably altered, compromising ecological functions, and indicating the start of ecological decay. The study found a significant reduction in keystone species, such as great apes and elephants, suggesting that their decline as a result of hunting is leading to ecological imbalance. The results suggest that, beyond a certain threshold of wildlife decline, wildlife community collapse and ecological decay are likely. Identifying such thresholds can inform sustainable wildlife management and help monitor the health or integrity of the ecosystem, and its ability to provide globally significant ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and storage.


Wildlife abundance Species richness Ecological services Ecological degradation 



We thank the Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation of the Flemish government for its funding of the Centre for Research and Conservation, and all in-country logistic staff of Projet Grands Singes. We thank all villagers participating in the surveys since 2002, and the support and assistance of forest guides and research assistants.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10531_2019_1899_MOESM1_ESM.docx (387 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 386 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikki Tagg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jacques Keumo Kuenbou
    • 3
  • Daan Willem Laméris
    • 4
  • Fany Michelle Kamkeng Meigang
    • 5
  • Sévilor Kekeunou
    • 5
  • Manfred Aimé Epanda
    • 6
  • Jef Dupain
    • 7
  • Donald Mbohli
    • 2
  • Ian Redmond
    • 8
  • Jacob Willie
    • 1
    • 9
  1. 1.Centre for Research & Conservation (CRC)Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (RZSA)AntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Association de la Protection de Grands Singes (APGS)YaoundéCameroon
  3. 3.Department of ForestryDschang UniversityDschangCameroon
  4. 4.Animal Ecology Research GroupUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Animal Biology and Physiology, Laboratory of ZoologyUniversity of Yaoundé 1YaoundéCameroon
  6. 6.African Wildlife FoundationNairobiKenya
  7. 7.NairobiKenya
  8. 8.Ape AllianceLansdownUK
  9. 9.Terrestrial Ecology UnitGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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