The Exploitation of Mammal Populations

pp 117-146

The impact of game meat hunting on target and non-target species in the Serengeti

  • Heribert Hofer
  • , Kenneth L. I. Campbell
  • , Marion L. East
  • , Sally A. Huish

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In the Serengeti National Park (SNP), illegal game meat hunting is largely carried out using snares in the south-western, western and north-western areas. Game meat hunting provides cash income and protein to communities outside the SNP. The economic benefits of game meat hunting have drawn people to villages close to the park boundary, causing a rise in human population density well above the regional average. Game meat hunting has already drastically reduced populations of Cape buffalo and must in the long term be considered unsustainable for a number of other herbivore species. In this chapter an estimate of the current wildlife offtake from the National Park is made and the impact of unselective hunting methods on carnivore species, the most common non-target species, is considered. The analysis demonstrates that game meat hunting poses a threat to both target and non-target species of the Serengeti wildlife community. Optimality models, commonly used in behavioural ecology and economics, are introduced to assess a hunter’s profit in relation to hunting effort (costs) and to ask whether unchecked illegal hunting is likely to be sustainable in the long term. A review of studies on African systems demonstrates that whenever costs are reduced, the impact on wildlife due to illegal hunting is dramatically increased and reaches unsustainable levels. Proposals to limit wildlife offtake to sustainable levels, including limited legalization of game meat hunting in areas adjacent to SNP and the development of alternative sources of income and protein for local communities, are considered. The evaluation of these proposals suggests that the situation in the Serengeti does not meet the pre-conditions and assumptions of programmes developed elsewhere for maximizing economic returns from wildlife utilization as an incentive to preserve wildlife; hence such programmes are unlikely to be successful here. This is because the Serengeti is a wildlife system dominated by migratory herbivores, exacerbating the problem of assigning unambiguous ownership of wildlife outside the protected area to a given local community — a pre-condition for any successful privatization or commercialization scheme. Also, if future community conservation services are focused only on those communities that currently benefit most from illegal exploitation, i.e. communities adjacent to the protected areas, then such programmes are likely to reinforce a vicious cycle. They are likely to attract more people to villages close to the protected area and ultimately put greater demands on the proted areas, just as currently people are attached to these villages because of enhanced oppurtunities for illegal hunting. The analysis suggests that in ecosystems dominated by migration herbivores and wih low levels of law enforcement a large investment is required in both law enforcement and rural development of local communities, that the success of the latter may be linked to investment in the former, and that without both of these the long-term conservation of Serengeti wildlife populations is unlikely to be ensured.