Bushmeat hunting in the western Serengeti: Implications for community-based conservation
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- Institutt for biologi 
Bushmeat hunting is identified as the major threat to wildlife in sub-Saharan Africa. The trade which includes both rural and urban dwellers is linked to deforestation, and especially the development of roads, which has increased human settlements and provided access to improved transport of animal products. Demand from a burgeoning human population is adding to the unsustainability of the activity. Many wildlife populations in East and Southern Africa have already experienced dramatic declines and range contractions because of illegal hunting. Conservation efforts have largely been directed along two approaches: establishing protected areas and including local people in the management of wildlife, while sharing wildlife related benefits. However, both strict protected areas, such as national parks, and partially protected areas have not by themselves been able to improve the situation. Moreover, laws and regulations, together with law enforcement have also been unsuccessful at reducing illegal activities. Community-based conservation (CBC) was introduced in recognition of the importance of including local people and partially and unprotected areas as part of wildlife management in the wider landscape context. This has been a widely adopted approach in East and Southern Africa, and Tanzania has also invested considerable efforts to use CBC and buffer zone areas (i.e. partially protected areas) in order to create incentives for conservation and for alleviating poverty. In the Serengeti ecosystem, illegal bushmeat hunting is identified as the top-most threat to wildlife populations. At the same time, local people bear substantial costs from having large wildlife as neighbours, which cause conflicts and resentment towards protected areas. In the mid 1980s the Tanzanian government established Serengeti Regional Conservation Project (SRCP) as one of the first CBCs in the country to tackle the problems experienced in the ecosystem, and in particular that of the western Serengeti, where encroachment and illegal hunting were most severe. However, despite its potential importance little information has been available for evaluating its effect. This thesis focuses on the performance of wildlife conservation efforts in partially protected areas by using the western section of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania as a case study. The thesis first explores some of the costs and benefits for local people that are associated with wildlife, and the effects of human disturbance onwildlife, then it evaluates some of the efforts implemented to include local people in conservation and to curb illegal activities. The conflict between large predators and people epitomises the struggle of conservation. Local people in the western Serengeti suffer high costs due to livestock loss from large predators and this effect extends relatively far into human settled areas. Not surprisingly, retaliatory killing is widely accepted. Education seemed to reduce the acceptance of killing, and for livestock keepers the perceived effectiveness of livestock protection measures, as well as the number of livestock loss influenced attitudes. Thus, in order to reduce the effect of retaliatory killings on predator populations in the Serengeti, it is vital to improve protection measures for livestock and offer local people improved education, which will also provide them easier access to alternative livelihoods. In accordance with previous studies, illegal bushmeat hunting was widespread in the area outside the Serengeti National Park, both from SRCP and non-project villages. There was also a temporal variation in hunting efforts which increased when the wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) migration travelled through the area. The majority of the harvest was represented by migratory herbivores, but also resident herbivores were targeted. Males were exposed to a higher risk of being killed, probably due to behavioural differences between the sexes, rather than as a result of the hunter’s prey choice. The main reason for hunting was subsistence, although some also had commercial motives. Illegal bushmeat hunting reduced impala (Aepyceros melampus) density, especially in the partially protected areas, as well as probably causing a more female biased sex ratio. In addition, animals became more wary in the areas under high hunting pressure, which indicates that demography and behaviour can be used as indicators of human exploitation. Animals, like Thomson’s gazelle (Gazella thomsoni), appeared not to monitor the expected time a predator would take to reach their location, but instead relied only on distance as a cue to assess when to flee. The game cropping operation (the commercial utilisation of wild animal populations in natural habitats) of SRCP was economically unsustainable. The expected revenue per villager from the cropping program was low compared to the value of the potential income enerated by illegal bushmeat hunting. In addition, the degree of participation in wildlife management was also restricted. One underlying condition for conservation to take place when including local people in benefit sharing, is that communities must be able to reduce threats to biodiversity themselves – that is they must have some control over the area, and can enforce policies to reduce threats through their own activities. Local law enforcement in the project villages showed substantial efforts in curbing illegal activities inside their patrol areas. However, project villages that derived higher benefit levels were more zealous in executing their authority. District level units had a low influence on the probability of making arrests, which suggests that measures must be taken to increase the resources available for enforcement, as well as increasing collaboration, in order to reduce illegal activities.
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