Factors Determining the Choice of Hunting and Trading Bushmeat in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania
A study published in Conservation Biology, in which the authors spoke with 325 actors involved directly in the bushmeat trade in Tanzania, offers interesting insight into possible factors that might contribute to a reduction in bushmeat hunting, trade, and consumption. Researchers found that options such as alternative employment in jobs with comparable daily salary, or giving hunters animals for farming purposes, were potentially more effective than heavy fines or increased enforcement.
The bushmeat trade in Africa is a confounding problem. Conservation efforts involving law enforcement, patrols of conservation areas, and heavy fines have had mixed results. A study published in Conservation Biology, in which the authors spoke with 325 actors involved directly in the bushmeat trade in Tanzania offers interesting insight into possible factors that might contribute to a reduction in bushmeat hunting, trade and consumption.
Speaking with small groups of hunters, traders, and local retailers in the Kilombero Valley using choice experiments (and controlling as much as possible for hypothetical and strategic bias), researchers found that indeed, increasing law enforcement patrols or fines for being caught hunting would have little if any effect on current actors in the trade. This goes against the findings of other recent research involving broader population samples, which have suggested that increased enforcement works. Whether it is because hunters are less risk-averse than the broader population (and therefore self-select into the trade) or because 66% of cases of encounters with law enforcement are settled with bribes instead of fines, this study challenges prevailing notions around patrolling as an efficient mechanism to combat the trade. Instead, researchers found that other options, such as alternative employment in jobs with comparable daily salary, or providing hunters with farm animals they can own, were potentially more effective. Alternative employment is an option that was especially attractive in the researchers’ choice experiments, while factors such as the price of local meat were less significant.
The study offers an important corrective to animal advocates who believe that increased law enforcement efforts will necessarily yield greater protection for wild primates. Though the authors do not discount the importance of enforcement patrols and fines in general, their findings suggest that there is perhaps a certain threshold where putting more resources into enforcement becomes counterproductive, and alternatives should be pursued and supported.