March 6, 2018, Zoological Society of San Diego
In a new study released this month, conservationists are sounding the alarm about a growing hunting crisis plaguing rainforests in central Africa. The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found that more large forest birds such as raptors and hornbills are being killed to provide bushmeat (wildlife taken for food) than previously thought. Researchers concluded that unless the threat posed by unsustainable hunting is reduced, bird populations will continue to decline—potentially leading to devastating consequences for the biodiversity of the region.
The study was conducted in the Littoral Region of Cameroon, where scientists surveyed 19 villages that border the proposed Ebo National Park in the western part of the country. Researchers used direct and indirect questioning and statistical models to quantify the socioeconomic predictors, scale and seasonality of illegal bird hunting, and bird consumption in the area.
"Understanding why people eat birds and quantifying how many are killed is just the first step in understanding how bushmeat hunting can affect birds like hornbills and eagles," said Robin C. Whytock, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland and lead author of the study. "I think birds such as crowned eagles are particularly threatened by hunting in Cameroon, both because of direct persecution and because their prey base has been depleted by hunting. These and other similar large-bodied birds that reproduce slowly are therefore a conservation priority."