In this post Mona Bachmann discusses her new research ‘Saving rodents, losing primates—Why we need tailored bushmeat management strategies’ – out today.

You can also find the authors’ plain language summary here.

“Providing consumers with bushmeat substitutes would probably decrease demand on rodents, but not necessarily on vulnerable species like primates”. Photo credit: Wild Chimpanzee Foundation

The wildlife trade encompasses hundreds of species, serves multiple purposes, and arises out of a pluralist social, cultural and economic context resulting in a diverse set of values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours among beneficiaries of wildlife. Therefore, I strongly appreciate new approaches that embrace this diversity. I was personally interested in how this diversity affects the decisions to use certain species, and I was surprised how little research is out there. That this may be problematic becomes clear when considering the composition of the hunted, traded and consumed bushmeat biomass, which consists, as like in our study, up to 80% of abundant species like rodents. This species can be harvested at high levels without threatening their populations. Hence, if strategies are developed to mitigate bushmeat utilisation as a whole, but people, as we found in our study, use the species for different reasons, these strategies would likely target these abundant species.

In our study, rodents were hunted and consumed, because animal proteins were lacking, but rare species like primates were consumed as a luxury item, independently from price or protein availability. If we would consider the main drivers for overall bushmeat consumption, and since around 60% of the consumed meat originated from rodents, we would probably recommend projects to increase protein supply. However, providing consumers with bushmeat substitutes would probably decrease demand on rodents, but not necessarily on vulnerable species like primates. These results could suggest that many strategies are currently tailored around abundant species, meanwhile rare species are overlooked. By implication, the probability that a species is targeted by a conservation strategy designed to reduce overall bushmeat utilisation, would paradoxically even decline with a given species’ rarity. Hence, we need new approaches considering this diversity of species and the multiple connections that people maintain with wildlife.

Combined efforts are needed, bringing together knowledge and tools from various disciplines such as psychology or marketing. Therefore, we appreciate the special value of People and Nature on cross-, multi-, or interdisciplinary work. Overall, we hope that our results will stimulate a debate about the usefulness of this generic assumption in conservation and ultimately lead to more differentiated approaches in this field.