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Keywords:

  • bushmeat;
  • exploited species;
  • prey choice;
  • snaring;
  • sustainable harvest;
  • trapping

Summary

  • 1
    The hunting of wild animals for consumption by people currently threatens many species with extinction. In the tropics, where the threat is most acute, hunting frequently targets many prey species simultaneously, yet our understanding of the dynamics of hunting in such multi-prey systems is limited. This study addressed this issue by modelling the effects of human hunters on prey population dynamics in a multi-species prey community. Both pursuit hunting (in which offtake depends partly on hunters’ prey preferences) and trap hunting (in which the offtake is determined solely by random processes) were considered as submodels.
  • 2
    The pursuit hunting submodel was validated against studies of subsistence hunting in tropical forests, while the trap hunting submodel was validated against data from five studies of offtake rates by snare hunters in subSaharan Africa. In all cases, observed prey removal rates were predicted well by the model.
  • 3
    Simulations demonstrated the emergence of distinctive prey profiles at different intensities of hunting, related to sequences of overexploitation dependent on species’ vulnerabilities to exploitation.
  • 4
    Synthesis and applications. A model is developed to explore the impacts of harvesting on multi-species prey communities. Model predictions can be used to aid the interpretation of incomplete monitoring data, such as snapshots of the species taken by hunters. This will improve our ability to assess the sustainability of multi-species hunting systems using the limited information typically available in these cases.