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Bushmeat characteristics vary with catchment conditions in a Congo market

Dupain, Jef, Nackoney, Janet, Mario Vargas, J., Johnson, Paul J., Farfán, Miguel A., Bofaso, Mange, Fa, John E.
Biological conservation 2012 v.146 no.1 pp. 32-40
forests, human population, human settlements, mammals, markets, meat carcasses, monitoring, planning, population density, remote sensing, reproduction, species diversity, watersheds, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo
Ever-increasing rates of subsistence and commercial bushmeat hunting in African moist forests result in unsustainable exploitation levels for many mammals. Bushmeat markets are found in a large number of human settlements throughout the region and may be used to monitor the state of game species in catchment areas. As depletion of large-bodied species forces hunters to focus on small-bodied species this is likely to be reflected in the mean body mass and species composition of animals sold in that market. In this paper we present data on bushmeat sold in Basankusu market in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a 2-year period (276 sample days). We counted 10,358 carcasses of 33 mammal taxa, emerging from nine well-defined hunting catchment zone; an area of more than 45,000km². For each catchment we assessed human pressures using metrics derived from remote sensing. Human population density correlated with higher species richness of species harvested, as well as with an increase in rarer taxa, and with a tendency for more individuals with higher intrinsic rates of reproduction to be observed. We suggest that simple surrogates of anthropogenic pressure and faunal characteristics in markets can be used as a rapid tool to measure faunal depletion of mammals at a regional scale. Such a system of evidence-based game monitoring would allow identification of both potentially overhunted and of less-disturbed areas for consideration in strategic planning.