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The Impact of Hunting on the Mammalian Fauna of Tropical Asian Forests


1 Corresponding author; e-mail:


People have hunted mammals in tropical Asian forests for at least 40,000 yr. This period has seen one confirmed global extinction (the giant pangolin, Manis palaeojavanica) and range restrictions for several large mammals, but there is no strong evidence for unsustainable hunting pressure until the last 2000–3000 yr, when elephants, rhinoceroses, and several other species were progressively eliminated from the large parts of their ranges. Regional declines in most species have occurred largely within the last 50 yr. Recent subsistence hunting has typically focused on pigs and deer (hunted with dogs and spears or with snares), monkeys and other arboreal mammals (often caught with blowpipes), and porcupines and other rodents (smoked or dug out of burrows). Over the last 50 yr, the importance of hunting for subsistence has been increasingly outweighed by hunting for the market. The hunted biomass is dominated by the same species as before, sold mostly for local consumption, but numerous additional species are targeted for the colossal regional trade in wild animals and their parts for food, medicines, raw materials, and pets. Many populations of mammalian dispersers of large seeds and understory browsers have been depleted or eliminated, while seed predators have had a more variable fate. Most of this hunting is now illegal, but the law enforcement is generally weak. However, examples of successful enforcement show that hunting impacts can be greatly reduced where there is sufficient political will. Ending the trade in wild animals and their parts should have the highest regional conservation priority.