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Preliminary Assessment of Illegal Hunting by Communities Adjacent to the Northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe
Abstract and Figures
Illegal hunting of wildlife is a major issue in today’s society, particularly in tropical ecosystems. In this study, a total of 114 local residents from eight villages located in four wards adjacent to the northern Gonarezhou National Park, south-eastern Zimbabwe were interviewed in 2009, using semi-structured questionnaires. The study aimed to answer the following questions: (i) what is the prevalence of illegal hunting and what are commonly used hunting methods? (ii) Which wild animal species are commonly hunted illegally? (iii) What are the main reasons for illegal hunting? (iv) What strategies or mechanisms are currently in place to minimize illegal hunting? Overall, 59% of the respondents reported that they saw bushmeat, meat derived from wild animals, and/or wild animal products being sold at least once every six months, whereas 41% of the respondents reported that they had never seen bushmeat and/or wild animal products being sold in their villages and/or wards. About 18% of the respondents perceived that illegal hunting had increased between 2000 and 2008, whereas 62% of the respondents perceived that illegal hunting had declined, and 20% perceived that it remained the same. Snaring (79%) and hunting with dogs (53%) were reportedly the most common hunting methods. A total of 24 wild animal species were reportedly hunted, with African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) (18%), Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga) (21%), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) (25%) and impala (Aepyceros melampus) (27%) amongst the most targeted and preferred animal species. In addition, large carnivores, including spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) (11%), leopard (Panthera pardus) (10%) and African lion (Panthera leo) (8%), were reportedly hunted illegally. The need for bushmeat, for household consumption (68%), and raising money through selling of wild animal products (55%) were reported as being the main reasons for illegal hunting. Strengthening law enforcement, increasing awareness and environmental education, and developing mechanisms to reduce human-wildlife conflicts will assist in further minimizing illegal hunting activities in the Gonarezhou ecosystem.
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