Trophy Hunting Versus Ecotourism as a Conservation Model? Assessing the Impacts on Ungulate Behaviour and Demographics in the Ruaha-Rungwa Ecosystem, Central Tanzania
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Trophy hunting may influence wildlife populations in many ways, but these effects have received little consideration in many of Africa’s protected areas. We assessed the effects of trophy hunting on group size, behaviour, flight initiation distance, sex ratio and calf recruitment rate in two model species, impala (Aepyceros melampus) and greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), in Rungwa Game Reserve (RGR), Tanzania. The adjoining Ruaha National Park (RNP) served as a control site, since only ecotourism is permitted. Road transects were driven and data recorded immediately upon sighting animals. Both impala and greater kudu had higher flight initiation distances, smaller group size, lower calf recruitment rates and higher levels of vigilance behaviour in RGR compared to those in RNP. Sex ratios did not differ between the two areas. The observed differences are ascribed to the direct and indirect effects of trophy hunting in RGR. Low calf recruitment rates in RGR are of concern, as this may directly compromise population growth rates. Long-term studies may therefore be required to assess how hunted populations are affected by different hunting intensities and at what point this may threaten population persistence.