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Bushmeat trade in the Cross–Sanaga rivers region: Evidence for the importance of protected areas

Macdonald, David W., Johnson, Paul J., Albrechtsen, Lise, Seymour, Sarah, Dupain, Jef, Hall, Amy, Fa, John E.
Biological conservation 2012 v.147 no.1 pp. 107-114
animals, conservation areas, forests, hosts, markets, meat, meat carcasses, national parks, prices, rivers, roads, rural areas, species diversity, trade, tropics, wildlife, wildlife management, Cameroon, Nigeria
Exploitation of wildlife for meat in the tropics (‘bushmeat’) is a critical threat for biodiversity, particularly in Africa. Here, we investigate the importance of protected areas (National Parks and other forest parks) as sources for the trade by exploring patterns in pricing and condition of bushmeat carcasses. We surveyed carcass prices in a large sample of trading points (87 markets surveyed, over a 35,000km² area) in Cameroon and Nigeria in the Cross–Sanaga region of West Africa. We assessed evidence for national parks as the source of animals traded as bushmeat. The study area included rural and urban centers (Calabar, Nigeria, and Douala, Cameroon) close to important protected areas: the Cross River National Park in Nigeria, and Korup National Park in Cameroon. Both parks host very high species diversity, including a range of endemics. Prices increased with distance from national park boundaries, particularly in Cameroon, where parks may be less depleted than in Nigeria. There was evidence that trading points closer to parks were more likely to function as wholesalers, with meat moving onto further trading points, rather than being sold to the end consumer. Carcasses were more often smoked (a treatment aimed at preservation) if they were not sold to their final consumers; smoking was also commoner at larger trading points. Prices were higher close to the road network, where opportunities for further trade were more available. We consider how wildlife harvests in and around protected areas may be managed to minimize depletion of animal populations, and if protected areas may, on the principle of marine no-take zones, be sustainable sources for regulated harvests.