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Social and psychological aspects of communal hunting (pieli) among residents of Tamale Metropolis in the Northern Region of Ghana

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The practice of communal hunting (also referred to as " mob " hunting) has been the pastime of the people of the Northern Region of Ghana for as long as many may remember. It has recently come to the fore for all the wrong reasons primarily due to its perceived environmental impacts. While the generally held notion is that this form of hunting is essentially for the acquisition of meat, little has been done to establish other factors that continue to entice people to engage in this activity. Through a combination of participant observation and administration of structured interviews to hunters in the Tamale Metropolis, this paper brings out the social characteristics of participants, as well as the motivations for engaging in this activity. It is suggested that the practice should be modified to include the strict observance of hunting rules, issuance of licenses, and designation of areas for hunting. This could be the genesis of controlled recreational hunting in the region.
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African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Vol. 2 (2) - (2012)
ISSN: 2223-814X
1
Social and psychological aspects of communal hunting
(pieli) among residents of Tamale Metropolis in the
Northern Region of Ghana
Adongo, R., Nkansah, D.O. & Salifu, S.M.
Address of Corresponding Author
Raymond Adongo
Department of Ecotourism and Environmental Management
Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources
University for Development Studies
P.O. Box TL 1882
Tamale- Ghana
Email: ogbaus@yahoo.com
Abstract
The practice of communal hunting (also referred to as “mob” hunting) has been the pastime of the people
of the Northern Region of Ghana for as long as many may remember. It has recently come to the fore for
all the wrong reasons primarily due to its perceived environmental impacts. While the generally held
notion is that this form of hunting is essentially for the acquisition of meat, little has been done to establish
other factors that continue to entice people to engage in this activity. Through a combination of participant
observation and administration of structured interviews to hunters in the Tamale Metropolis, this paper
brings out the social characteristics of participants, as well as the motivations for engaging in this activity.
It is suggested that the practice should be modified to include the strict observance of hunting rules,
issuance of licenses, and designation of areas for hunting. This could be the genesis of controlled
recreational hunting in the region.
Key Words: Hunting, Animals, Motivation, Recreation, Tamale
Introduction
Hunting and gathering of wild animals has
been and continues to be an important
aspect of life in many societies, especially
rural African ones. In the past, hunting
provided the main source of animal protein,
a fact which may have contributed to
professional hunters occupying highly
respected places in the society. Even in
modern day Africa, some groups such as
the Bushmen in South Africa depend almost
entirely on hunting and gathering to obtain
essential protein and cash income, while
many other groups supplement their
livelihoods considerably through hunting
(Asibey, 1974; Tutu, Ntiamoa-Baidu, and
Asuming-Brempong, 1993). Surprisingly,
hunters in most hunter-gatherer societies
only manage to kill few large game animals
(over 10kg) per year (Hawkes, O’Connell
and Jones, 1980).
Hunting still forms an integral part of life for
many Ghanaians, primarily as a way of
looking or searching thoroughly for animals
to serve as food for the family/household. It
is practiced all over the country in various
forms. In the southern part, hunting is done
almost all year round either individually or in
small groups. This departs from the practice
in the northern parts where hunting activity
is confined to only the dry season months
(from November to April). Communal
hunting is what is predominantly practiced in
the northern sector, where people (men) or
communities organize themselves in groups
and travel long distances in trucks into the
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wild to hunt for meat and for other reasons.
It is often assumed that those that engage
in this type of hunting are mostly illiterate
farmers who only go to gain meat for the
family. This, however, may not entirely be
the case.
The idea of hunting tourism (or hunting for
other reasons beside food) however, is still
generally a little known sector and is
therefore also an untapped resource for
rural and regional development. This is
especially true of the Northern Region which
is rich in different kinds of game population
due to a large uninhabited wilderness and
diversity of natural habitats. Hunting tourism
could provide a realistic source of livelihood
based on the special strengths of the
remote rural areas (Matilainen, 2010).
Definition of terms
Hunting: is one of the oldest ways of using
natural resources (Lovelock, 2008). It
basically refers to trying to find, seek,
obtain, pursue, or diligently search for
game. Hunting also includes chasing,
pursuing, worrying, following after or being
on the trail of or searching for or lying in wait
for wildlife whether or not the wildlife is then
or later captured, injured or killed
(Department of Environment and
Conservation, 2010). The European Charter
on Hunting and Biodiversity (2007) states
that hunting is the pursuit and/ or take of
wild game species by all methods permitted
by law within signatory countries and the
motivations for this activity include
consumption (use of meat, hides, fur and/ or
trophies), recreation, and/ or management
of game population.
Foraging: refers to subsistence based on
hunting of wild animals, gathering of wild
plant foods, and fishing, with no
domestication of plants, and no
domesticated animals except the dog (Lee
et al., 1986). Professional hunters depend
on their stalking skills, experience and
knowledge of the behavior of wild animals
as well as a thorough knowledge of the
hunting grounds within which they operate.
However, hunters may adopt a number of
strategies involving the use of ‘magic’,
which is believed to either increase hunting
success or offer protection for the hunter
(Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2007).
Types of hunting and hunting units
Hunting may be done individually, often
assisted by a helper, or in groups
(communal). Individual hunting may take
place during the day or at night in the forest
or in secondary growth around farms. A
professional hunter would leave his home in
the morning for a day’s hunting expedition,
returning only in the evening. Many farmer-
hunters share their day time between farm
work and hunting or trapping. Dogs are
commonly used to sniff out the wild animals
(Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2007).
Group hunting or communal hunting is
normally done during the day in groups of
four or five to as many as 60-100. Three
main forms of communal hunting are
common in Africa:
1) Seasonal group hunting using guns
2) Combing of vegetation to drive out
animals which are then killed with
clubs and cutlasses
3) Use of fire to smoke out animals.
Traditionally, the seasonal group hunt is
carried out at specific times of the year or as
part of the celebrations associated with a
particular cultural event and commonly
involves most of the able-bodied males in
the community. Among the Ashanti living in
forest areas of Ghana, the seasonal group
hunting is a highly organized event. A
meeting is held several days before the hunt
to decide on the hunting grounds, divide
people into ranks and share out
responsibilities.
A hunting party may consist of solely males,
females or mixed. Hunting with guns and
bows is predominantly a male activity, but
women and children also play a significant
role in the hunting and collection of wild
resources to feed the household. In south-
African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Vol. 2 (2) - (2012)
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eastern Gabon, women and children set
traps for small mammals and birds in
plantations (Lahm, 1993). Women of the
Luvale and Shaba tribes of Zaire also trap
rodents and, in West Africa, snail collection
is predominantly done by women and
children (Food and Agriculture Organisation,
2007).
Membership of a hunting unit is optional and
open to all interested persons. According to
Sharp (1976) membership in a hunting unit
is obtained in one of four ways:
(1) by birth into the unit
(2) by marriage to one of the hunting
unit’s members
(3) by founding a new hunting unit
(4) by being the parent of a female
member of a hunting unit (Sharp,
1976).
People start hunting as children (Weckel,
Rockwell and Wincorn, 2010) and at the
youthful stage when they are strong but
stop hunting as they grow older (Folkman,
1963).
Hunting techniques and methods
There are several hunting techniques that
are employed by hunters which include
individuals and group hunting. Some of
these techniques are trapping, encounter,
ambush, approaching and pursuit. In the
above mentioned techniques, there are six
methods of hunting for wildlife. (Asibey,
1974). These methods are the use of guns,
chemicals, fire, dogs and traps but only
guns and traps are legally approved by L1
685 of 1971 (Wildlife Division, 2000) for
hunting wild animals. Techniques may vary
depending on government regulations, a
hunter's personal ethics, local custom,
hunting-equipment, and the animal being
hunted. Often, a hunter will use a
combination of more than one technique.
The success of the different types of hunting
methods vary, as does the sex and species
composition of the catch. For instance Lahm
(1993) reports that trapping and night
hunting had the greatest success rates for
hunters in a village in north-eastern Gabon,
and small nocturnal prey such as porcupine
were the most easily caught by snares.
Hunting by combing of vegetation involves
few people, perhaps a party of four or five.
They encircle a patch of vegetation known
to harbor animals and work towards the
centre, beating and slashing the bushes.
Signs used to determine whether or not a
patch of vegetation is likely to contain
animals include presence of animal
droppings and food remains. The method is
popular for hunting rodents, especially the
grasscutter in West Africa. Animals
emerging from the vegetation are either
chased and caught by dogs or killed with
clubs and cutlasses (Food and Agriculture
Organisation, 2007).
The use of fire in group hunting is more
common in the grassland savannah areas.
Members of the group are positioned
strategically around a patch of grassland
known to contain wild animals. The area is
then set on fire and animals are killed with
cutlasses and clubs as they run out of the
area to escape the fire. Within the forest
areas fire is regularly used to smoke out
rodents such as the giant rat Cricetomys
gambianus from their burrows. A group of
rat hunters would search for rat holes and
set fire at the entrance using palm branches
and dry leaves. The smoke penetrates the
burrow and forces the rat to come out. In
the mean time, members of the group would
be waiting at strategic points around the
burrow ready to kill the rat as soon as it
comes out. Often the animal dies in the
burrow out of suffocation from the smoke, in
which case, it is dug out (Food and
Agriculture Organisation, 2007)
Motivations to hunt
People do not engage in wildlife hunting for
its sake but are motivated to do so. The
term “motivation” is defined by Manfredo,
Fix, Teel, Smeltzer and Kahn (2004) as a
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specific force directing an individual’s
behavior in order to satisfy a goal. For
hunters, these motivational goals may be to
harvest an animal for meat, to spend time
outdoors, or to spend time with friends and
family. People participate in hunting in order
to harvest animals, usually for food
(Hendee, 1974). Decker and Connelly
(1989) proposed three categories of
motivations for hunting; achievement-
oriented, affiliation-oriented, and
appreciation-oriented.
1 Achievement-oriented hunters are
motivated by the attainment of a
particular goal, which may be
harvesting an animal for meat, a
trophy. The said achievement could
also be the display of skill.
2 Affiliation-oriented hunters
participate in hunting with the
primary purpose of fostering
personal relationships with friends,
family or hunting companions.
3 Appreciation-oriented hunters are
motivated by a desire to be
outdoors, to escape everyday stress,
or to relax.
An individual hunter’s main motivation may
change; hunters are often achievement-
oriented when they begin hunting, but
become more affiliation or appreciation-
oriented as they get older (Wetz and Seng,
2000). Gigliotti (2000) defined seven
categories of hunter motivations, which split
achievement motivation into meat and
trophy motivations; appreciative motivation
into nature and solitude motivations;
retained affiliation as social motivation, and
added exercise and the physiological effects
of excitement (e.g. increased heart rate).
Others go into hunting because it is their
way of life.
Gidlow, Cushman and Espiner (2009) came
out with the following motivations of North
Canterbury New Zealand Deerstalker’s
Association hunters;
1. Being in the wild
2. Catching food
3. Experiencing new places
4. Spending quality time with mates
5. Observing nature
6. Demonstrating hunting skill
7. Obtaining trophies
8. Leave work behind (leisure)/Taking
a break from work
9. Seeking solitude and quiet, and so
on.
Research objectives and methodology
The main objective of the study was to
identify the social, organizational and
motivational factors behind communal
hunting in the Tamale Metropolis. It sought
to establish three things:
1. To identify the organization,
preparations and the activities
involved before and during
communal hunting.
2. To identify the categories of people
that engage in the group hunting.
3. To establish the motivations of
hunters engaged in communal
hunting in the metropolis.
Purposive sampling was used to identify the
hunting groups largely because they are
specifically located in some parts of the
metropolis. Simple random sampling was
then used to select hunters within the
groups for interviews. Four (4) hunting
groups were selected with a maximum of
three hundred (300) hunters in each group.
In all four hundred (400) hunters were
interviewed by selecting 100 hunters from
each group selected. Structured interview
was used to obtain the categories of people
engaged in the hunting (age, occupation,
motivation, gun ownership, educational
level, group formation among others).
Participant observation was also employed
to elicit data on the organization,
preparations, and the activities involved
before and during the group hunting.
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Results
The researcher used participant observation
in the research by going on hunting
expedition with two separate groups on two
separate occasions to establish how hunting
is organized, the preparations that take
place before hunting, and the activities that
typify the communal hunt.
Group Formation and Membership
From observation and interaction, it was
established that a hunting group is formed
by a hunter or hunters within a locality
provided they have the hunting experience
and/or own a truck. The groups are named
for the locality from which the group
originated.
For instance, there are the Choggu,
Tishiggu, Kapolhini, Vittin, Kamvilli hunting
groups. Memberships of a hunting groups
is optional and open to all interested
persons provided applicants are fit and can
hunt or membership in some instances is
mandatory as is often the case when one
happens to be the son of a group hunting
leader.
To be a member, you have to be introduced
by an existing member to the group leaders.
The new member is briefed about the rules
by the one introducing him.
There is no fee or initiation ritual, it is
absolutely free. Leaders are chosen based
on their experience in hunting and the age
of the hunter. Normally, the older males are
chosen to be leaders. The leaders are:
1. Mogorikpema (group leader) and
his assistant
2. Peili gungon nmera(drummer) and
the assistant.
Members from a different group can join
another group for hunting when their group
is not embarking on an expedition that very
day.
Preparation
The hunting season starts in the dry
season, between November and April but
most hunting groups hunt between February
and April. The reason being that, by that
time, all farm produce would have been
harvested, which precludes the danger of
the hunters destroying any cultivated crops.
The hunting is done on Saturdays, Sundays
and Wednesdays, in the day time (from
morning up to about 5pm). The weekends
(Saturdays and Sundays) are included to
enable formal sector workers take part.
Before a group starts, the leaders in the
group meet to fix a date to start the hunt
and the areas/hunting grounds where the
group will be hunting. The date set for the
hunt is communicated to members through
phone calls and by word of mouth.
The sites chosen for the hunt are selected
based on water availability in the area and
its proximity to a farming area. These
criteria are used for the simple reason that
animals feed on the farm produce and are
most likely to be found around water bodies.
All vehicles or trucks for the hunting period
are arranged by the leaders. The Friday
prior to the start of the hunt, a mass prayer
is held and prayers are said for the hunters
for a successful season by the Imam and
the Mallams in the locality after the Friday
Afternoon Moslem Prayers.
The rules governing the group hunting
activities are echoed for new members or
anybody interested in joining the group to
take note.
Rules and Regulations
The following rules and regulations are
observed during hunting;
1. No burning of bushes except small
grasses where animals might be
hiding.
2. No stealing of farm produce to the
house but the produce can be used
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in the bush. Example, roasting of
yam and drinking of farmers’ water.
3. No stealing of farmers’ traps or
animals caught in those traps.
4. No gun shooting when an animal is
being chased and other hunters are
present in the area. Shooting can
only be done when an animal is lying
down and other hunters are not
around or have been warned that a
firearm is about to be used.
5. The right forelimb thigh of any four-
legged animal killed is reserved for
the drummer. Also, in case the
ownership of a killed animal is in
dispute, either because the hunters
cannot agree over who killed the
animal, or whose dog caught the
animal, the animal is awarded to the
drummer.
6. Every hunter must be attentive to the
sound of the drum in the bush to
avoid getting lost.
7. When a hunter without a gun sees
an animal lying and calls others
around to help kill the animal, the
killed animal becomes his no matter
who killed the animal.
8. A hunter is to give the animal killed
by a dog when the owner of the dog
is not around to the owner of the
dog. Any animal killed by a dog
belongs to the owner of the dog.
Even if the owner of the dog is not
present to retrieve the kill, other
hunters must hand over the kill to
the owner of the dog.
9. Any hunter who sees a water source
must inform the rest.
Activities on Hunting Days
Early in the morning, the drummer gets to
the assembling ground and drums to inform
the hunters or anybody interested that there
will be a hunt that day. The hunters then
assemble with their dogs and tools such as,
clubs, guns or knives. Most importantly they
come equipped with their most important
provision; filled water bottle(s). They are
then conveyed to the bush by a truck. There
is intermittent drumming throughout the
journey. On average, three hundred hunters
are present in any one group. A group may
use more than one truck for a hunting trip
and other members can use their own
means of transport such as motorbikes and
private cars are utilised. Even though
hunting is done in the metropolis, they
sometimes move to other districts as well.
On reaching the hunting grounds, the
leaders form a human barrier to collect the
truck fare from all hunters. The fare charged
is based on the distance and the number of
hunters in the truck. Currently, the fare is
between GhC1 and GhC2. In fact, great
level of honesty and trust is demonstrated
with regards to the paying of the fares and
the observation of the rules and regulations.
The hunters fan out into the bush as soon
as they finish paying their charge. There is
running, shooting and shouting all over,
while following the rules and regulations of
course. The drummer drums throughout the
whole period to direct the hunters as to
where they are going and to prevent any
hunter from losing his way.
The hunters will have the chance to
assemble in the bush when they come
across a water source. At this point, the
Muslims amongst them take the chance to
pray, and also rest for a while. Averagely,
seven hours is spent in the bush. They hunt
through the bush to the roadside where they
are conveyed back to their locality in the
evening.
Some hunters take the chance to dress the
animals they have killed at the roadside
using fire while waiting to be conveyed back
to their locality.
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Results of the structured interview administered.
The data below shows the composition of a hunting group from the 400 questionnaires
administered.
42
41
8
9
0
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
11 to 20 21 to 30 31 to 40 41 to 50 Above 50
%
Age Group
AGE DISTRIBUTION OF HUNTERS
AGE GROUP OF HUNTERS
Figure 1.0 Age Distribution of 400 Sampled Hunters (expressed in percentages). Source: Field Survey
(2012).
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FORMAL EDUCATION LEVELS OF HUNTERS
0.5
16 16
3
65
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
Primary J. H. S Secondary Tertiary None
Educational Level
%
EDUCATIONAL LEVEL OF
HUNTERS
Figure 1.1. Educational Level of Hunters (expressed in percentages). Source: Field Survey (2012).
Figure 1.2. Primary Occupation of Hunters (expressed in parentages). Source:
Field Survey (2012).
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Figure 1.3. Gun Ownership of Hunters (expressed in percentages). Source: Field Survey (2012).
Figure 1.4 Age at which Hunters Joined the group hunting (expressed in %). Source: Field Survey (2012
).
Motivation and Recreation
The study also revealed the following motivations as pushing/pulling hunters to participate.
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Figure 1.5. Age Groups and their Motivations (Percentages). Source: Field Survey (2012).
Figure 1.6. Age Groups and Primary Motivations for Hunting (expressed in %). Source: Field Survey
(2012).
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Figure 1.7. Occupation and Motivations (Percentages). Source: Field Survey (2012).
Figure 1. 8. Educational level and primary motivation for hunting (in percentages). Source: Field Survey
(2012).
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Figure 1.9 Shows Motivation (fun) of educated and non-educated respondents. Source: Field Survey
(2012).
Discussion, conclusions and
recommendations
From the study, it was realized that there is
limited restriction to the formation of a
hunting group. Anyone can form a hunting
group and this is especially true for the older
males who have some hunting experience
and are well known to be hunters. As
indicated by Lahm (1993), hunting groups in
the Tamale metropolis are characteristically
only males, explained perhaps by the
physical intensity of the activity. While
Sharp (1976) seems to suggest that
membership of hunting groups is mainly by
marriage, birth, or formation of a new group,
membership of hunting groups in the
Tamale metropolis is mainly by choice even
though being born to the head of a hunting
group may compel one to be part of it.
Marriage, however, has no influence on the
formation or membership of a hunting
group.
As captured by Weckel, Rockwell and
Wincorn (2010) and revealed by figure 1.4.,
it is deduced that most people who engage
in group hunting start doing so from as early
as age eleven (11) and will most likely retire
from it by age fifty (50) as indicted by the
age distribution of hunters in figure 1.0. The
result of this may be that a hunter could
probably hunt for up to 50 years. Fifty years
therefore appears to be the retiring age for a
hunter.
Hunting groups in the metropolis are
composed of people of different classes and
occupations; farmers, students, traders, civil
servants, educated and the non-educated
(no formal education). Perhaps this is in
contrast to the popularly held notion that
people engaged in group hunting are mostly
farmers and people with very little or no
formal education.
Farmers and those with no formal education
do form the majority however, as shown in
figure 1.1 and 1.2. The farmers dominate
the groups as they use the hunting to
engage themselves during the dry season
as they have little or nothing to do on their
farms. Interestingly, none of the farmers
indicate hunting as their primary occupation,
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which means that they engage in this
activity when their main occupations allow
them to.
There is low level of gun usage as a hunting
tool during the group hunting activities as
reflected in the gun ownership of hunters in
figure 1.3 where 114 hunters possess a
gun, representing 29% and 286 hunters
without a gun, representing 71%, giving a
clear indication of clubbing as the preferred
method to use during the hunt. With the use
of fire, it was realized that there is no mop
up to control the spread of the fire.
This research also revealed the varying
motivations that propel people to engage in
this activity. Although many of those who
engage in this activity do so to gain meat
(achievement-oriented), as revealed by
figure 1.5., many (as depicted by figure 1.6)
also do so largely due to appreciation and
affiliation-oriented reasons as suggested by
Decker and Connelly (1989). Gidlow, B,
Cushman, G., Espiner, S., (2009) suggest
that most hunters do so to see new places,
spend time with friends, observe nature,
display skill and to find food. This has been
revealed in this study which seems to
suggest that people engaged in group
hunting in the metropolis do so for varied
reasons with food being just one of them.
This makes the group hunting more of a
social event where people use to know new
places, interact with friends, demonstrate
their skill and also for fun. On the issue of
fun as a motivation, it is realized from the
study that the educated engage in the
hunting more for fun than the non-educated
as indicated in figure 1.9. The study
revealed that the more educated hunters
tended to cite the pursuit of fun as the
reason for joining hunting parties; the non-
educated did not cite this as a motivation to
go on hunting expeditions. This is indicated
in Figure 1.9.
Going forward, it is essential that the
practice of group hunting in the metropolis
be given a second look. In the first place,
the practice is not necessarily an economic
activity, but largely a socio-cultural one.
Therefore any solution to its negative
impacts has to be examined from that
perspective. While the practice is not legal
under the laws of Ghana, in the Northern
part of the country, perhaps a modification
of the practice may yield far greater results
than an outright criminalization. In order to
keep species and to preserve wildlife, the
issuance of licenses to various hunting
groups and the policing of strict adherence
to rules, together with designation of
specific areas and periods in the year where
this activity can take place is recommended.
This could form the basis for controlled
recreational hunting in the metropolis, which
could serve as a tourist activity in itself.
The organized nature of the group hunt and
the adherence to rules and regulations
suggest that these are people with whom
the Environmental Protection Agency and
the Forestry Commission could work with in
promoting bush fire prevention education.
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