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Bushmeat in Gabon

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Abstract and Figures

The National Strategy for Bushmeat Management in Gabon From 2000 to the present, the Gabonese government, through the Wildlife Department of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forests (Ministère des Eaux et Forêts) has been developing a National Strategy for Bushmeat Management. This process, originally supported as part of a regional initiative by the FAO, has involved both extensive discussions on policy and revision of the legislation in force and also support and coordination of a broad suite of research projects, some carried out by independent researchers and most involving DFC staff. The twin aims of the National Strategy for Bushmeat Management are: to safeguard food and economic security for those people reliant on bushmeat for their livelihoods, until alternatives are available, to ensure protection of viable wildlife populations for the future The two are inextricably linked, as without the long-term local survival of wildlife, there is no possibility of reliance on the resource, for either food or economic security. It is possible for some wildlife species to persist within an impoverished faunal community, and still provide enough meat for rural populations. Whilst this may be acceptable in some areas, it is not a desirable national outcome. The hope is that the national management strategy can enable both the survival of representative intact wildlife communities in some areas free of hunting, along with sustainable local use of the bushmeat resource elsewhere, whilst still safeguarding these wildlife communities as well as possible through catch limits and protection for vulnerable species. The following two pages give a schematic overview of the decisions taken to arrive at the need for development of a National Strategy (First decision tree) and the definition of the objectives of this Strategy (Second decision tree). Once the general framework of the Strategy was outlined, field research was carried out to clarify the current situation on the ground and develop a Strategy that can take into account the status quo and develop reasonable short term (dealing with the current situation), medium term (working towards alternative rural opportunities, urban education and species protection) and long term (sustainable harvests with labelled, legal product) goals. This remainder of the document synthesizes the research results of studies of bushmeat use in Gabon over the last decade. The majority of these studies were carried out in association with the Wildlife Department (Direction de la Faune) of the Ministry of Water and Forests. The bulk of the work is already published as doctoral or Masters degrees and some is published in the scientific literature, but the majority is available only in English. The original works, methods and analyses are made available through links and annexes whilst the report text concentrates on clear presentation of the main results.
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Bushmeat in Gabon
December 2010
Katharine Abernethy
Anne Marie Ndong Obiang
Part 1 Executive Summary
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Table of contents
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ......................................................................................................... 3
1.1 THE NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR BUSHMEAT MANAGEMENT IN GABON ............................................... 3
1.2 SUMMARY OF HUNTER PRACTICES ............................................................................................... 6
1.3 THE COMMODITY CHAIN ............................................................................................................ 7
1.4 BUSHMEAT PURCHASE AND CONSUMPTION .................................................................................. 9
1.5 WILDLIFE ................................................................................................................................ 10
1.6 LEGALITY, MANAGEMENT, CONTROL AND SUSTAINABILITY ............................................................. 11
2 HUNTER PRACTICES ............................................................................................... 13
2.1 WHO IS HUNTING? .................................................................................................................. 13
2.2 HOW ARE VILLAGERS HUNTING? ................................................................................................ 15
2.3 WHERE ARE VILLAGERS HUNTING? ............................................................................................. 17
2.4 WHAT IS BEING HUNTED? ......................................................................................................... 21
2.5 HOW MUCH BUSHMEAT IS HUNTED? .......................................................................................... 25
2.6 WHY ARE PEOPLE HUNTING? ..................................................................................................... 29
3 THE COMMODITY CHAIN ........................................................................................ 34
3.1 CURRENT LEGAL STATUS OF TRADE IN BUSHMEAT IN GABON .......................................................... 34
3.2 PRODUCTION OF COMMODITY BUSHMEAT: SALE FROM THE HUNTER ............................................... 35
3.3 TRADE IN BUSHMEAT: BUYING AND RESELLING ............................................................................. 44
4 CONSUMPTION OF BUSHMEAT ............................................................................... 59
4.1 ROLE OF WEALTH IN USE OF BUSHMEAT IN GABON ....................................................................... 59
4.2 URBAN AND RURAL CONSUMPTION OF BUSHMEAT ....................................................................... 65
4.3 ALTERNATIVE FOODS ................................................................................................................ 67
4.4 NUTRITIONAL AND HEALTH IMPORTANCE OF BUSHMEAT IN RURAL DIETS ......................................... 68
4.5 PREFERENCES OF CONSUMERS ................................................................................................... 72
5 IMPACTS ON WILDLIFE ........................................................................................... 74
5.1 PREY SPECIES ........................................................................................................................... 74
5.2 IMPACTS ON PREDATOR SPECIES ................................................................................................. 79
5.3 WILDLIFE COMMUNITY CHANGES ............................................................................................... 81
6 BIBLIOGRAPHY ...................................................................................................... 82
7 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................................................................... 86
8 ANNEXES............................................................................................................... 87
8.1 LIST OF TABLES ........................................................................................................................ 87
8.2 LIST OF FIGURES ...................................................................................................................... 88
8.3 ANNEX A: SPECIES USED AS BUSHMEAT IN GABON 2000-2006. .................................................... 89
8.4 30 SPECIES RAREST IN THE COMMERCIAL TRADE ........................................................................... 93
8.5 CONSUMPTION OF PROTEIN BY HOUSEHOLD SURVEYED ................................................................. 94
8.6 HUMAN FOOTPRINT IN CENTRAL AFRICA: RELATIVE POSITION OF GABON ........................................ 95
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 The National Strategy for Bushmeat Management in Gabon
From 2000 to the present, the Gabonese government, through the Wildlife Department of the Ministry of
Wildlife and Forests (Ministère des Eaux et Forêts) has been developing a National Strategy for Bushmeat
Management. This process, originally supported as part of a regional initiative by the FAO, has involved
both extensive discussions on policy and revision of the legislation in force and also support and
coordination of a broad suite of research projects, some carried out by independent researchers and most
involving DFC staff.
The twin aims of the National Strategy for Bushmeat Management are:
to safeguard food and economic security for those people reliant on bushmeat for their
livelihoods, until alternatives are available,
to ensure protection of viable wildlife populations for the future
The two are inextricably linked, as without the long-term local survival of wildlife, there is no possibility of
reliance on the resource, for either food or economic security. It is possible for some wildlife species to
persist within an impoverished faunal community, and still provide enough meat for rural populations.
Whilst this may be acceptable in some areas, it is not a desirable national outcome. The hope is that the
national management strategy can enable both the survival of representative intact wildlife communities
in some areas free of hunting, along with sustainable local use of the bushmeat resource elsewhere,
whilst still safeguarding these wildlife communities as well as possible through catch limits and protection
for vulnerable species.
The following two pages give a schematic overview of the decisions taken to arrive at the need for
development of a National Strategy (First decision tree) and the definition of the objectives of this
Strategy (Second decision tree).
Once the general framework of the Strategy was outlined, field research was carried out to clarify the
current situation on the ground and develop a Strategy that can take into account the status quo and
develop reasonable short term (dealing with the current situation), medium term (working towards
alternative rural opportunities, urban education and species protection) and long term (sustainable
harvests with labelled, legal product) goals.
This remainder of the document synthesizes the research results of studies of bushmeat use in Gabon
over the last decade. The majority of these studies were carried out in association with the Wildlife
Department (Direction de la Faune) of the Ministry of Water and Forests. The bulk of the work is already
published as doctoral or Masters degrees and some is published in the scientific literature, but the
majority is available only in English. The original works, methods and analyses are made available through
links and annexes whilst the report text concentrates on clear presentation of the main results.
Part 1 Executive Summary
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The first decision tree for the National Strategy
The second decision tree is concerned with the terms for managing sustainably,
1. In respect of the states international engagements for sustainability, especially the United Nations
Millenium Development Goals (MDG) 1 & 7 : Poverty reduction and promotion of environmental protection
through sustainable use.
http://www.un.org/english/millenniumgoals
and the Convention on Biodiversity Objective 2010; a significant reduction in the current rate of
impoverishment of biodiversity at global, regional and national levels, to contribute to poverty eradication
and for the benefit of all forms of Life ion Earth.
http://www.cbd.int/2010-target/
2. In the search for a balance between local and national concerns for biodiversity use, national heritage and
the safeguard of hunting traditions and access to bushmeat.
Gabon is a signatory of the Declaration of Rome on World Food
Security, 13 November 1996. This declaration shows the
engagement of Gabon to fight poverty and to assure the food
security of all of its people. www.fao.org/WFS/index_en.htm
Can it give people the right to use wildlife as a
means to ensure their food security ?
Have citizens the right to use wild meat for
money, as well as for food ?
The Declaration of Rome (1996) is clear on the need to
protect biodiversity resources. Gabon is also signatory,
among others, of the , Convention on BioDiversity of Rio,
1992 ; the African Convention of Algiers, 1968, and the
COMIFAC, which demands sustainable use of all flora and
fauna.
All hunting and harvesting of wildlife muxt be carried out
sustainably.
www.cbd.int
www.fao.org/docrep/W7414B/w7414b03.htm
www.comifac.org
Should the government be
responsible for the food security of
its citizens ?
Hunting and trade of bushmeat should
be authorised under strict management
controls for sustainability.
All hunting
for food
becomes
illegal.
NO
True food security requires access to a varied diet.
Bushmeat can be considered as a commercial
product essential to the well being of poor
communities who have little access to alternative
sources of revenue. Nonetheless, their use of
bushmeat must remain sustainable.
www.fao.org/WFS/index_fr.htm
YES
All
commercial
use of
bushmeat
is illegal
NO
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The second decision tree of the National Strategy
The main goals of the National Strategy are found in this second tree.
Currently, almost all regions of teh world are suffering declines in
biodiversity and wildlife density.
The forests of Central Africa are almost certainly being
unsustainably harvested, thus the bushmeat resource is not being
preserved for future generations.
www.bushmeat.org
www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-33-fr.pdf
Hunting and trade are authorised without revision of legislation or increase in
law enforcement capacity ?
** the current no- enforcement of laws can be considered as unregulated harvest and trade
Regulation is necessary to preserve the food security and economic security
of rural populations who depend on the resource.
The intact forests of Gabon probably have a protein production capable of
sustaining (1-4) people per km2. But they are in large part already highly
hunted for wildlife. Bushmeat can no longer satisfy the protein needs of the
Gabonese population.
www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-33-en.pdf
If hunting access is not regulated, an overexploitation will certainly occur,
penalising and fragilising rural communities food security and wildlife
persistance.
The majority of the current population is no longer dependent on bushmeat
for its food security; these people could accept a reduction in access to
bushmeat. http://www.wri.org/publication/world-resources-2008-roots-of-
resilience
.
Hunting and trade of bushmeat are authorised
legally
Hunting is limited to the Domaine rural under revised legislation. All traded
bushmeat must come from a legal hunt.
Loss of wildlife,
particularly
large mammal
species.
Loss of food
security of
bushmeat
dependent
communities
and families.
NO
YES
Given the limited wildlife resource, limits must be placed in harvesting.
www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-33-en.pdf
The rural communities without alternatives should have priviledged access
over urban dwellers who have no need of access to bushmeat protein.
Trade in bushmeat by poor communities, to satisfy their revenue needs may
supply urban consumers, but commercialised meat must be part of a
sustainable harvest overall.
Current laws regulated hunting and trade of wildlife strictly and could
provide a base for sustainability. However, certain revisions and
changes are needed before they can be properly applied in the
comunity. Revue juridique les lois concernant la chasse, Christy 2006.
YES
Poor rural
communities
suffer most.
Failure on MDG
1 and 7.
NO
A hunt may provide meat sustainably, even if vulnerable
species are lost, if resilient species are numerous. In
addition to the sustainability of the biomass hunted, a
strategy for wildlife community conservation is also
imperative.
YES
A National Strategy for bushmeat hunting and trade is developed, taking into account a limited
local trade for the benefit of rural communities and protection is given to vulnerable species to
ensure the persistance of intact wildlife communities.
The current situation where
revenue and protein
alternatives are scarce in
rural areas must be
considered as short term and
to be urgently addressed in a
National Food Security Plan,
which would overarch the
National Bushmeat Strategy.
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1.2 Summary of Hunter Practices
Who is hunting?
Over 70% of all rural families engage in some degree of subsistence hunting.
The very poorest rural families in villages hunt least, as they lack manpower and equipment. They do
receive bushmeat in gifts.
Commercial hunters working only for income hunt in production forests and the domain rural. They
poach in protected areas and for protected species.
Hunting with shotguns and wire snares is only legal in the open season for village hunters with licenses,
under ‘villager hunting’ laws.
Where are they hunting?
Village subsistence hunters trap the area very close to a village very intensively, but rarely hunt beyond
15km from their village. Commercial hunters can move illegally into more remote areas. Logging company
employees can hunt legally in designated areas of the production forests far from permanent villages.
Hunting areas around villages are allocated to individual hunters and are rotated, with ‘fallow’ periods. In
the past, villages moved within clan lands, however, recent permanent settlement of villages means that
land is returned to more frequently in the past, allowing less time for wildlife regeneration. Hunting within
5km from villages is very intense everywhere.
65% of Gabon’s territory is probably hunted for village/logging camp needs, 96% is within reach of
commercial hunters and poachers.
How are they hunting?
Although year-round subsistence hunting with traditional methods is legal for all villagers, the majority of
hunting in practice is illegal, as closed seasons and limits on use of guns and wire snares, numbers of
animals caught, protected species and protection for female and juvenile animals are not respected.
Village hunters mostly use snares and shotguns. Neck snares are used close to villages and catch smaller
prey, leg hold snares are used further away for larger animals. Shotguns can be used anywhere, but are
more effective for larger prey and so are used most between 3 and 15 km from villages where larger
animals can still be found. Heavy firearms and automatic weapons are very rare and cannot be used
legally.
Most village hunting is still on foot from the village, but commercial hunters increasingly use vehicles to
get to remote areas and transport large quantities of meat out in freezers and iceboxes.
What are they hunting?
114 species have been recorded as bushmeat in Gabon since 2000. Most of these are mammals, but birds
and reptiles are also common.
The top 5 species provide >70% of the biomass hunted, and Blue duikers, Brush-tailed porcupines and
Red duikers are always in these top 5 species, wherever hunting takes place in Gabon.
Rare and vulnerable wildlife species form a minority of the village hunters catch. Limiting the offtake of
these species would have a relatively low impact on village hunter livelihoods and a relatively high impact
on wildlife survival and biodiversity conservation.
Is current bushmeat hunting sustainable?
Several small species (<5kg) which are fast breeding and live at high densities seem to be quite resilient to
current village subsistence hunting intensity. However, hunter returns in areas that have been hunted for
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a long time are now low even for these species, suggesting that the offtake has been unsustainable over
the last few decades. Viable populations of duikers can still be found at 5-10km from many villages, but
the overall faunal community within which they are found has been changed by hunting pressure.
Large bodied animals (>10kg) are now rarely found in resident populations close to hunting villages
(<3km) which must have been over-hunted in the recent past, and for very large animals, such as
elephant, buffalo or apes, abundances <10km from a village are low.
Why are rural communities hunting bushmeat?
Bushmeat is a very significant part of the rural economy, with nearly 80% of rural families gaining some
benefit from the resource.
Bushmeat is providing up to 90% of the protein in the diet of some remote rural families, and >70% of
family income in remote, forest areas (which could be as much as 25% of the rural population, >50,000
people). Hunting returns within a community are highly skewed, with few families hunting most of the
meat. Total value of bushmeat is greatest for wealthier families, who hunt most successfully, but
proportionally poor families benefit more.
Traditional use of bushmeat for family ceremonies is still important and can increase hunting by up to
30% in the dry season and at the New Year.
Alternative proteins and sources of income are rare in rural villages. In coastal regions, seafish provides
alternative protein for a similar price, but in forested areas, alternatives on sale are scant and over twice
the price of bushmeat.
1.3 The Commodity Chain
How much of their catch do village hunters sell?
Hunters across rural forested Gabon are generally selling about 40% of the animals they catch. This
equals about 50% of the biomass they catch, because they preferentially sell larger animals.
Which species are most commercially important for villagers?
The most frequent sales across all Gabon are duikers, porcupines, and red river hog. Smaller species
are generally eaten in the village and larger animals are less often caught, but when they are, they
will be sold. In most villages, 3-5 species account for over 70% of commercial sales. The exact
species vary with locality, but commonlu include duikers, porcupines and red river hog.
Which families and communities are the most dependent on selling some of their
bushmeat?
Most village families make the majority of their income from agriculture and only remote villages
make >50% of their income from bushmeat, but this may be the situation for around 25% of villager
households. The families that make most commercial benefit from bushmeat are not the poorest in
the village, but the middle sector, who can afford to use guns and catch larger animals.
How much cash income do hunters make from selling bushmeat?
All families who hunt (77% of the rural sector) will sell bushmeat when they can. Successful hunters
can make up to 10,000fcfa/day, but only around 5% of families that hunt get these sorts of returns.
90% of hunters make less than 1,000fcfa per day, often only a return of 100fcfa/day, for all sales
averaged over the year. The average rural family income is around 6,000fcfa/day from all activities,
so for most, bushmeat is not a major resource.
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Cash from bushmeat is not generally considered a reliable income and is not usually used for daily
needs (other food, fuel etc) but for luxury goods, or more occasional needs, like clothes, medicines
or ceremonies.
Where is bushmeat sold?
Bushmeat is sold from villages into a commercial chain of usually 3 to 4 steps (hunter to transporter,
to small town market, to larger town), eventually supplying the capital. The proportion of meat
from each provincial town that arrives in the capital is small (around 10%, depending on transport
possibilities). However, the aggregation of supply from many towns results in large markets in urban
centres, largest in Libreville.
Although around half of the catch is commercialised, only a small part gets into a recognised market
chain, being sold at fixed bushmeat markets. Much of it is sold through direct orders to a hunter,
roadside or street vending in larger towns or restaurants. In Libreville, only 18% of meat that is
consumed was purchased from a recognised marketplace.
Who is involved in the commercial trade?
There are many actors in the commercial chain: village hunters are mostly partially commercial;
selling surplus meat after satisfying dietary needs of their families, but others are purely
commercial, selling all of their catch, or hunting for a salary.
Once sold by a hunter, traders (market sellers, resellers, procurers for private orders, street vendors
and shop owners, transporters and restaurateurs) may all make financial gain from bushmeat.
Around 11% of all Gabonese families make some money from the bushmeat trade in some way. The
numbers of marketplace traders and shop and restaurateurs are known for each town, but the
number of private order traders and resellers in each locality is hard to survey and is largely
unknown.
Who buys commercial bushmeat?
Even in small settlements, bushmeat is generally bought, rather than family hunted. In Libreville,
although only 18% of bushmeat comes from recognised market places, over 80% of consumed
bushmeat came from a commercial supplier of some sort. In contrast around 90% of village
consumption was supplied by family hunters. In all settlements of over 2,000 people, most
consumers are buying the majority of their bushmeat commercially.
How much meat is sold commercially each year?
Rough calculations suggest a minimum of around 10,000 - 11.500 tonnes of meat may be sold
commercially each year in Gabon; the equivalent of about 30,000 cattle carcasses.
What income and profits do resellers make?
Vendors in provincial markets have been recorded making up to 425.000fcfa per month profit from
their bushmeat trading and most resellers trade in other commodities also, thus this is only partial
income.
Carcasses of bushmeat may double their value between sale from the hunter and the price paid in
the capital city.
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1.4 Bushmeat Purchase and Consumption
Where is bushmeat acquired for the household?
Bushmeat comes into homes from family hunting, gifts or the commercial chain. Commercial outlets
include shops, markets, street vendors, roadside or doorstep sales, orders from on-demand hunters and
restaurants.
Consumption of commercial and family hunted meat
At least 50% of all the bushmeat consumed in Gabon is bought commercially.
In all urban settlements greater than about 2,000 people, the majority of the bushmeat eaten is from a
commercial source not a family hunter. This is a combined effect of depleted wildlife around larger
villages and alternative opportunities for men’s employment.
The effect of wealth on the consumption of protein
People in richer households and houses with higher incomes eat more protein than poor households.
However, they tend to choose a lesser proportion of bushmeat within that. In Gabon, all rich people
(>US$10 per person per day) live in urban centres, especially Libreville.
People in urban centres have more choices of alternative proteins than in rural areas. Bushmeat is the
cheapest meat in villages. In larger urban centres, this is reversed. Bushmeat can be very expensive and
there are always cheaper alternatives available (i.e.frozen chicken).
People eat least protein in provincial towns, with small towns of 2,000 10,000 people faring worst, as all
proteins, including bushmeat, are imported and are expensive.
The effect of urban living on bushmeat consumption
People of the same income eat less bushmeat in urban centres than in rural areas. This is mostly
explained by the relatively high price of bushmeat in urban centres, rather than a free choice by urban
people.
The longer people have lived in urban areas, especially for people under 25, the less bushmeat they
choose to eat.
The availability and price of alternative foods
In urban areas, alternative proteins are available, and become more widely available and cheaper the
larger the urban centre, and the better the transport links to Libreville, the main importation port.
In villages, bushmeat is the cheapest and most available meat, between 40 and 60% the price of the
cheapest other protein. In Libreville, bushmeat can be up to 6 times the price of alternatives such as
tinned meat or frozen chicken.
Prices of rurally available alternatives are high because transport costs are high and there is no tradition of
rural domestic meat production. Almost all imported meat goods originate in Libreville and have to be
transported to the interior. Currently, poor transport infrastructure limits both quantity and quality
(freshness) available, and adds a high overhead to the goods, which become very expensive.
Rural food security
Although many villagers, especially in forest areas in dry season, have been shown to be overall food
insecure, the protein part of their diet was generally good. The fact that other parts of their dietary
requirements are not being met makes their reliance on meat for energy very high and their access to
bushmeat currently critical.
Consumer perceptions of bushmeat
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Around 60% of urban dwellers and 90% of rural dwellers said they preferred bushmeat to domestic
meats. They cited taste, health, habit, ease, price and culture as reasons for this choice. But only 13% of
families said they had no cultural prohibitions against certain family members eating any species of
bushmeat.
In taste surveys, Brush-tailed porcupines, duikers and red river hog always came out in the top 5
bushmeat species preferences.
1.5 Wildlife
How much wildlife is there to hunt?
For most wildlife species, there are no good estimates of the wildlife numbers currently in Gabon. There
are no estimates at all for the numbers of the most hunted prey species; brush-tailed porcupines, blue
duikers, red duikers or red river hog living in the domain rural or production forests and estimates from
protected areas are likely to be much higher than those in hunted areas.
Is wildlife declining due to village hunting?
Wildlife surveys of hunted areas and interviews with village hunters suggest that wildlife communities
have been seriously depleted by the unregulated village hunting regime in the last 30-50 years, since
villages became permanently-sited and vehicle access became widespread. Large mammals, such as
gorillas, elephants, manatee, hippo and Bongo rapidly declined soon after hunters using modern methods
(guns and snares) accessed their habitat and are now absent or in very low numbers close to human
settlements and roads.
Abundant populations of apes and elephants are now limited to remote areas, generally more than 15km
from vehicle access. Leopards are absent from areas close to villages and have become rare in areas
where humans hunt duikers, their preferred prey.
How much wildlife habitat is used for hunting?
Half of Gabon’s land lies within 15km of a village and is assumed to be accessed by hunters. Three-
quarters of Gabon’s land is within 15km of vehicle access for commercial hunters and nearly the whole
country (96%) is within 40km of vehicle access, known to be used to some extent by commercial hunters.
How much wildlife is vulnerable to hunting?
Wildlife is not evenly distributed across the land, and the most abundant wildlife populations are now in
the remotest and most protected areas, which have minimal overlap with the village hunting areas. This is
positive for long term wildlife conservation, but does not contribute to the sustainability of village
hunting.
What proportion of the wildlife community is affected by bushmeat hunting?
Many of Gabon’s mammal species (46%) and all of the mammals over 3kg are used for bushmeat. Fewer
of the reptile and bird species are used. Species are targeted differently and over-hunting changes the
balance of wildlife communities. Long term overhunting alters the entire ecology of the forest.
Is current hunting of wildlife sustainable ?
No. Wildlife populations of almost all hunted species are known to be declining in areas where there is
bushmeat hunting. Brush-tailed porcupines and blue duikers seem more resilient than expected, but even
their populations have declined in areas where hunting pressure has been sustained over a long period.
Local protein needs are more than fulfilled by the current bushmeat harvest and a sustainable subsistence
hunt for a limited number of species to feed rural communities is probably feasible, However, current
village harvests are higher than local needs, in order to supply cash from sale of bushmeat to an urban
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demand and are causing local wildlife to decline, which jeopardises local food security and livelihood
security.
The productivity of Gabon’s remaining wildlife is not sufficient to supply the current consumption levels
recorded in urban areas.
1.6 Legality, management, control and sustainability
Are current hunting laws appropriate for the National Strategy?
The current hunting laws are very strict and designed for a rural subsistence hunt for meat using
traditional methods, and long term wildlife conservation. However, they do not afford for use of modern
village hunting methods for subsistence (year round use of shotguns and unselective wire snares) and so
are unpopular and hard to enforce in subsistence communities.
The laws on hunting access, methods, seasons, bag quotas and age-sex limits of the catch need to be
revised in the light of current rural needs and the limits to sustainable harvesting that must be respected.
Modern day mobility means that the definition of ‘villageror ‘home use’ is difficult for law enforcers to
apply and needs clarification for people to know their rights.
Are the wildlife species protection statutes appropriate for the current threats?
The protected species lists require revision. They currently include species not found in Gabon, like the
Drill, and have not yet been revised in the light of recent data on globally endangered species, of which
Gabon holds extremely important populations (leatherback turtles, forest elephants).
As so many species are used for bushmeat and are declining in the face of hunting, yet so few are
important to rural subsistence, a revision to select legally-hunted game species with default protection for
all other species may be a more successful management strategy and easier to enforce. For a given
sustainable offtake, reduction of the number of harvested species better protects the wildlife community
structure by retaining the proportions of different species in natural balance.
Modern methods have led to increased hunter offtakes and less species selectivity, which is now in
combination with the loss of hunting area rotation, bringing long-term problems for sustainability of rural
hunting livelihoods.
Are trade laws appropriate?
The laws on hunting, trading and transportation licences and permits for legal trade in bushmeat are well
designed and could underpin a legal local trade sufficient for hunter income needs. However, they are
very costly in the staff and time resources they require for proper enforcement and have thus not been
enforced. An in-depth review of the strategy for enforcement is needed in order to gain rural community
respect for regulation of trade.
Trade into urban areas can only legally happen through licensed hunters and traders, purveying certified
carcasses. This is an appropriate framework for a legal urban supply, but requires careful and vigilant
enforcement to protect legal rural hunter supply from infiltration by illegal commercial poachers.
Health issues
The licensing and permitting of bushmeat provides a framework for ensuring hygiene and healthy meat. If
enforced, the current permit system could be adapted to ensure health standards in supply.
Technical legal issues
Many of the relevant laws do not have appropriate accompanying application texts. This makes their
enforcement almost impossible. Updating and completing the ‘textes d’application’ is urgently required to
allow the legal framework to operate efficiently.
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Robust definitions of ‘villager’ and on-the-ground definition of village lands, currently defined by ‘5km
beyond the plantations’ are required to allow both villagers and enforcers to know what the law requires.
Legislation for local circumstances
Villages are faced with different opportunities for sustainable hunting, depending on their history and
local circumstances and current population. Legislation for sustainability of rural hunting must be flexible
enough to allow wildlife recovery to be planned for, in generating long term sustainable harvest
programmes.
13
2 HUNTER PRACTICES
2.1 Who is hunting?
2.1.1 Who can legally hunt in Gabon?
The national laws governing hunting do not refer to particular groups of people who can hunt, however,
customary and village hunting rights refer only to members of the village or forestry camp communities as
having the right to hunt in their village territories (5km beyond the village plantation area), community
forests or areas defined by the concession management plan. Thus the current hunting rights of people
now resident in urban areas are unclear although the places that hunting can take place are well defined.
Hunters exercising customary rights can hunt year round without a permit, as long as they catch only
males of non-protected species, respect bag limits1, and use traditional methods (not firearms or steel
wire snares) and remain within a 5km radius area around their home. To hunt using shotguns or steel
snares, the hunter must be at least 18 years old, resident in the village or employed in the forestry camp,
and must apply for an annual permit which is valid only for the open season from March to
September.This permit also allows him to hunt partially protected species in limited numbers (Christy,
2006)2.
The current problems with the practical application of these laws lie mainly in the ineptitude of the closed
seasons for hunters with subistence needs. Although they can hunt under customary law year round,
prohibition of their main gun and wire snare hunting techniques during the closed season makes
application of the law locally very difficult.
Although the principles of licensing hunters, quotas and commerce from the hunter would ensure good
wildlife management, currently local Ministry authorities are not sufficiently numerous on the ground to
cope with giving or overseeing permits for firearms, hunting, commerce and registration of legally-caught
animals for commerce. Village hunters obtain most of their catch with wire snares or shotguns, therefore
under ‘village rights’. They sometimes have firearms licenses, but generally hunt without license, do not
have commercial licenses and do not register their catch to sell.
2.1.2 Rural village hunting
Socio-economic surveys show that around 12% of all families in Gabon may be directly involved in hunting
and 11% in trading bushmeat. The figure for hunting is highly biased toward rural communities with very
few urban families actively involved in regular hunting for meat.
1 Current per hunter quotas for all non-protected species are: per day 3 of the same species or 4 of different species, and per week 9 animals of any species. Females
cannot ever be legally hunted. Article 7 of Decree n° 692 /PR/MEFEPEPN of the 24 August 2004 fixing the conditions for exerci se of customary usage rights for forestry,
wildlife, hunting and fishing. Article 5 of Decree n° 189/PR/MEFCR of the 4 March 1987 relative to wildlife protection.
2 Current per li cence (1 hunter, 1 year) quotas for partially protected species are :2 sitatungas, 2 bushbuck, 1 giant forest hog, 10 red river hog,10 mandrills, 2 Yellow
backed duikers and 2 servals.
Part 2 Hunter practices
14
Table 2.1.a: Estimation of the proportion of the nation currently involved in hunting and
trading bushmeat3.
A small additional proportion of urban families probably hunt occasionall, as evidenced by the
seasonal influx of hunters in rural localities (i.e. Okouyi, 2006; Carpaneto et al., 2007.
Percentage of
Gabonese
population
Percentage of
surveyed
families
containing a
regular
bushmeat
hunter
Percentageof
all Gabonese
families
estimated to
be hunting
bushmeat
Percentage of
surveyed
families with
income from
trading
bushmeat
Percentage of
all Gabonese
families
estimated to
be trading
bushmeat
Capital city
40
0
0
0.2
0.08
Provincial urban
44
0.2
0.09
2
0.88
Rural village*
16
77
12.3
65
10.4
Total
100
12.4
11.4
Around 80% of all rural village families hunt and that those that do not hunt are mainly families with no
able-bodied man available to hunt (Starkey, 2004; Okouyi, 2006) Rural families without an able-bodied
man are often the very poorest of the rural village population, and cannot afford the equipment or labour
needed to hunt. The few rural families that didn’t hunt where a man was present were those that gained
alternative income elsewhere, which prevented the man from hunting (salaried employment, commerce
etc; Coad, 2007).
These numbers do not include information from the semi-nomadic BaBongo, Baka and Babendjele people
(often grouped as ‘pygmy people’), whose hunting practices may be different from the sedentary village
populations surveyed here. In these entirely forest-dependent communities, hunting is practiced by all
families, even old, children and the infirm (O Hymas, pers. comm.). These forest communities are
probably the absolutely poorest sector of Gabon’s population.
The vast majority of hunting is done by men and hunters include men from 12 to 75, though the most
successful hunters are those in the 30-50 age group, probably due to a combination of strength and
experience (Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007). Only one study, in Pongara, found women hunting with guns
(Peindi, 2007), but several studies have reported women and children laying snares near to villages (Lahm,
1993; Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007).
2.1.3 Commercial hunting
In addition to village-based hunters, there are hunters acting for purely commercial ends, with no
subsistence needs. These men are often acting as salaried or commissioned hunters for an urban vendor
and do not have daily subsistence needs for the meat. They are often hunting in an area away from their
native village.
Expatriate hunters are often in this fraction. Though expatriates who have settled in villages do participate
in hunting for family subsistence (i.e. Coad, 2007, p.262), their numbers are quite low.
3 The involvement of urban people in hunting and selling was e stimated from 4506 household surveys of sources of both income and household food in Libreville and
provincial urban areas, carried out in 2003 and 2005. *Average village family i nvolvement was estimated from 3 studies of village hunting in forest areas between 2000 -
2004. The national estimates are approximate, as they assume equal family sizes in all settings. Population data is from RGPH, 2003.Sources: Okouyi, 2006; Coad,
2007; Starkey, 2004; Abernethy et al., unpublished; RGPH 2003.
Part 2 Hunter practices
15
2.2 How are villagers hunting?
2.2.1 What are the legally recognised hunting methods?
Year round, only customary hunting is allowed and this authorises only traditional methods and local (in
the village they are used in) fabrication. In addition, the forestry code now prohibits nets and pit hunting.
This effectively reduces legal hunting to liane snares, bows and arrows, spears, knives, glue traps and
dogs.
The most common hunting methods: steel wire snares and small firearms are illegal for hunting carried
out under ‘customary rights’ law and only allowed under annual license for ‘village hunting’ rights. Village
hunting rights are limited to the open season of March 15th to September 15th each year and can be
carried out in the rural domain within 5km of the village agricultural lands and in areas of a forestry
concession designated for hunting under a management plan. In practice the enforcement of the laws on
hunting methods are only enforced for national parks or some privately managed forestry concessions.
Families that hunt use traps (mostly forms of metal cable snares), or a combination of trapping and gun
hunting. Some forest dwelling people in very remote areas still use bows and arrows, spears, pits, dogs
and net hunts, but on a national scale, these are now very rare in Gabon. Liane snares are still common,
but steel wire is preferred as it is stronger and lasts longer, despite its illegality in most cases.
Very few rural subsistence hunters use only gun hunting and very few families obtain meat only through
protective snares on their plantations, without setting traps in the bush. These latter families are
exceptionally poor, disadvantaged families who have no able bodied man (Starkey, 2004).
Figure 2.2.1. Hunting methods used by rural households in forest areas4
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
No hunting Traps o nly Traps a nd guns Guns only
Hunting method used
Percentage of village
households
Differing hunting methods target different species, with guns being used for larger animals and arboreal
species, and snares for relatively smaller and terrestrial prey, though these targets are not exclusive.
Snares can be set for a leg or neck hold, and the use of these targets different species; smaller prey are
caught most often in neck hold snares, blue duikers are caught almost equally in both snare types, and
red duikers and larger ungulates (sitatunga, red river hog etc) are caught almost exclusively in leg hold
snares (Coad, 2007). Hunters tend to set leg hold snares further from villages where hunting intensity is
lower and available prey are larger (Coad, 2007; Henschel, 2008). In 2009, following wildlife exploitation
over many years, larger prey are found, and therefore captured further from the villages (Henschel, 2008;
Van Vliet, 2008, Coad, 2007 and see section 2.3.2
Though exclusive gun hunting is rare, the local proportion of gun hunting varies across the country and
depends to some extent on local economic circumstances. The recent increase in commercial activities in
the rural sector, and better road access to wildlife-rich forests can lead to better returns from bushmeat
4 Data combined from Lahm, 1993; Starkey, 2004; Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007;
Part 2 Hunter practices
16
and increases in gun hunting. The species targeted also depend on the methods used, with the increased
gun hunting resulting in an increased proportion of larger ungulates (especially Red River Hog) and
corresponding decrease in rodents compared to areas where snaring predominates. When wildlife
becomes severely depleted, gun hunting close to a village becomes unfeasible and snaring will
predominate. As hunting families become poorer through low bushmeat returns, gun hunting will also
become increasingly difficult as the costs are relatively high.
Figure 2.2.a: Hunting success of village subsistence hunters in an intensively hunted forest5.
Hunting Method
% animals caught
% biomass
Snaring
67.9
62.2
Gun hunting
30.6
35.2
Netting
0.5
0.3
Dogs
1.0
2.3
Other (glue, live traps)
Children hunters only, low
returns
Unknown but very small
Hunting practice is closely related to wealth, with families with higher income practicing gun hunting
more than poorer families (Starkey, 2004). As gun hunting can only be practiced by households with the
means to purchase or hire the firearm and supply ammunition, there is a threshold below which very
poor families cannot gun hunt.
Starkey (2004) shows that for inexperienced hunters initial investment in equipment is high and returns
will probably be low. The relatively risky business of learning high-cost gun hunting is a significant
deterrent to families, who can seriously indebt themselves if initial returns are low. Very poor rural
families in this predicament opt for cheap and reliable snare hunting, though unquantified labour costs
are relatively high and efficiency is low.
For villagers, snaring is the most common method of hunting, and has the lowest overhead costs in
materials. However, snaring is also the most wasteful method of hunting wildlife, with losses to rotting or
scavenging reaching significant amounts. Wastage increases greatly with distance of the trap from the
village, corresponding to a longer delay before the trap was revisited. Traps more than 15km away waste
nearly 30% of their catch (Muchaal and Ngandjui, 2005). An average loss due to rotting of 8% of the
individual animals (4% of the biomass) caught in snares was recorded for villagers in Gabon trapping on
average 4km (0-10km) from the village centre (Coad, 2007).
Figure 2.2.2: Meat obtained by rural families from different hunting methods6.
Wealthier families have more possibility to use gun hunting, and more labour available for all hunting,
5 Coad, 2007. All returns from N=91 hunters followed through 1 year hunting in Ogooue Lolo, 2003-2005.
6 Data from 92 families in Ogooue Lolo, Starkey,2004, p.114. AME refers to the standard measure ‘adult male equivalent’ which allows better comparison between
places with different demographic profiles than ‘per capita’. The consumption of women and children is standardized as a proportion on an adult man’s average
consumption (Deaton, 1997).
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
Traps o nly Guns only Guns and traps
Hunting method
Bushmeat (kg/AME/day)
Part 2 Hunter practices
17
thus tend to have the highest meat returns.
2.3 Where are villagers hunting?
For village subsistence hunters, who hunt almost exclusively on foot, traps are usually set within 10 km of
the village, with trapping intensity highest within 1km of the village. In intensively hunted areas where
villages have been sedentary for more than 25 years, densities of up to 180 traps per km2 have been
recorded within 1km of the village, reducing to around 10 per km2 at 10km.
Hunters setting out on foot from villages to gun-hunt, go to a maximum distance of about 15km when
targeting species for meat (Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007; Van Vliet & Nasi, 2008). Hunting camps can be
temporarily used to extend this distance to up to 40km.
The way in which a landscape is used is important to the hunters’ efficiency, and also to the resilience of
wildlife. Recent studies in Gabon (Coad, 2007; Van Vliet, 2008) and Equatorial Guinea (Kumpel, 2006)
have looked at the way in which a village hunting area is used and discussed implications in terms of
wildlife survival and thus harvest sustainability. Local intensity of hunting, as well as the overall offtake, is
important to long term sustainability of wildlife populations. This is further discussed in section 5.
2.3.1 How is access to land for hunting governed?
Land in Gabon is owned by the state. Access for hunting is legally controlled under the legislation relative
to the land use (in general, 4 major uses are defined: protected area, production forest, rural domain,
urban). All hunting is banned in protected areas but can be carried out in the production forests and rural
domain under the ‘customary rights’ laws, or ‘village rights’ laws, in areas close to villages, community
forests or defined in forestry management plans. A full review of the current legislation and its
interpretation is found in Christy, 2006.
The State definition of a village territory in Gabon is a minimum of 78.5km2 area, measured as a standard
5km radius around the village plantations7. Plantations are found a maximum of 5km from the village
(usually less), making an absolute maximum radius of 10km (314 km2) for a state recognised village
territory
In practice, most subsistence hunting occurs close to village and towns in the rural domain. Here, local
hunting areas are still defined by tradition in many communities, but different local histories and
circumstances mean that respect for traditional access to the forest is very varied across Gabon today and
no generalities can be easily made here about what will govern current access in any given locality.
Increasingly, men from outside the village community are coming in to hunt in village lands and this is
causing increasing concern in some village communities.
Entirely commercial hunting (rather than subsistence) is more frequent in the production forests, where
distance from villages means that access is less well defined by traditions, and regulation depends largely
on the concession manager and its vision and capacity to control access and hunting. All Gabonese,
including the nomadic BaBongo, Baka and Babendjele people, have customary access rights in the
production forests, but all hunters must use traditional, locally made equipment to hunt8. Use of firearms
and steel snares is prohibited for areas hunted under the laws of ‘customary rights’ and only permitted in
the rural domain and areas where ‘village hunting’ is permitted. In some areas (like protected area buffer
7 Article 6 of Decree 1205/PR/MEFPE of the 30 August 1993.
8 Article 2 of Decree 692/PR/MEFEPEPN of the 24th August 2004 gives the terms of customary righ ts to use of the forest. Arrêté n° 687/CH of the 17 February 1956
and the arrêtes of 16 Septe mbre 1953 and 3 September 1955 give the list of methods and weapons that can be used for customary hunti ng. Article 215 of Law 16/2001
of the 31 December 2001 (the Forestry Code) bans the use of steel wire for snares, pit traps and nets, even for customary hunting in forestry concessions.
Part 2 Hunter practices
18
zones, and hunting areas defined within logging concessions), whether hunting is restricted to customary
hunting, or whether ‘village’ techniques can be used is unclear (Christy, 2006).
Village hunters knowledge of the state laws governing hunting areas in the production forests or rural
domain is often scant, but they are still highly aware and respectful of traditional community laws
determining their local hunting area rights (Starkey, 2004; Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007; Van Vliet, 2008).
2.3.2 How is the local landscape used?
Land around villages is used in a similar way in most areas of Gabon. Local hunting areas are usually
determined by the hunters’ family associations and are used exclusively by them. Trap lines are set in
areas along a set of pathways which are allocated to a particular hunter or family and which are used and
abandoned in a traditional system of set-aside9 type management. Traditional village management
systems allow time for regeneration between hunting periods. These fallow periods used to be exercised
both on a short-term basis, when hunting areas around the village were managed by individual families at
their own judgment; and on a longer term basis by the village chief, through a long-term rotation of the
village site, where the settlement, and hence the hunting centre, moved around 10km approximately
every 20 years, within a greater clan territory. This long-term rotation of hunting areas is now almost
abandoned as investments in modern houses, state infrastructures and roads mean that villages have
ceased to move within the larger clan lands.
2.3.3 Hunter pressure estimates
The lands within 5km of permanently settled villages are now very intensively hunted (permanent snaring
pressure) and farmed over many years, though in any one year only part of the area will be used. Wildlife
surveys have shown that wildlife densities for animals >10kg are now extremely low <5km from roads and
village centres (Laurance et al., 2006; Maisels, 2007; Laurance et al., 2008; Henschel, 2008; Henschel et al.,
2009;).
9 the term ‘set asi de’ refers to land management solutions based on peri ods of activity and periods when the land i s not used or ‘set aside’. In comparison,
other methods use definitive definitions of land use, where some lands are always hunted, and adjacent areas always protected as sources of animals for
the hunted areas, or use quotas of offtake to limit the hunt intensity instead of limiting the hunted area.
Part 2 Hunter practices
19
Figure 2.3.1: Rural hunting impacts in Gabon.
a) Towns and villages documented in Gabon (2003) b) settlements buffered at 5km (dark circles),
corresponding to intense hunting pressure. c) all current hunting pressure: Intense = <5km from
settlements; High = 5-15km from a settlement or <5km from other access; Medium = >5 <15km from
other access; Low = >15 <40km from access; none = >40km from access10.
Areas beyond 15 km from any villages are not heavily used for the subsistence requirements of rural
communities based on snaring and one-day gun hunting trips. This is supported by measures of wildlife on
the ground, using camera traps in hunted and unhunted areas (Henschel 2008; Henschel et al., 2009 in
press; see section 5). More remote areas are accessed along roads by commercial gun hunters in vehicles
10 Data sources: Forestry concessions, villages, NPs, roads, WRI Global Forest Watch 2009; Hunting pressure, Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007, Maisels, 2007 & van Vliet,
2008; settlements, RGPH 2005.
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Part 2 Hunter practices
20
particularly within logging concessions, but land beyond 15 km from vehicle access is largely free from
bushmeat hunting in Gabon. Trophy, ivory, or specialist meat hunters, targeting elephants, apes, Bongo or
Grimm’s duikers, can travel up to 40km from vehicular access using temporary camps (Maisels, 2007;
WWF, 2008). These impacts are hard to monitor as they usually sporadic events and often facilitated by
temporary roads, or wet season water access.
Ninety-eight percent (98%) of Gabon’s area is land. Of this around 24% is in the intensively-trapped zone
within 5km of villages (intense pressure) and a further 46% is within 5km of a vehicle access route or 5 -
15km of a village (high pressure). The remaining land is probably experiencing medium pressure (5-15km
from any access; 14%), or low pressure (15-40km from any access;14%). Only 2% of the country is
probably free of bushmeat hunting pressure, based on the knowledge we have of the way hunters are
using land, and even this area may be being used by ivory poachers (WWF 2008).
While the state designated village area (78 314 km2) corresponds well to the area actually freely chosen
for use by hunter villages (Coad, 2007) most traditional village hunting lands are not a closed circle, but
follow ridge paths or rivers out of the village and thus include areas farther from the village (5-10km), and
ignore some of the land closer to the village (Coad, 2007; Van Vliet, 2008).
In this way, in addition to the seasonal or annual set-aside of different hunting lands, the area around a
village contains land that is rarely or never visited for hunting; sacred areas, deep marshes, steep slopes,
dense regrowth of recently abandoned plantations, and the areas between principal paths are all
underused for hunting (Coad, 2007; van Vliet, 2008). This unofficial long-term set-aside land, mostly in the
5-15km band around villages, can harbour viable populations of small-sized wildlife whose land
requirements are low, such as blue duiker or rodents (Newing, 2001). Animals from these populations will
disperse periodically into the hunting areas.
Nearly fifty percent (50%) of Gabon’s land area is within the 15km ‘daily walk’ distance, in easy reach of
hunters on foot setting out from village homes and some of this land is in reach of more than one village,
whose territories interlock. The use of all of this foot accessible land would give an average territory size
to each village of 65km2 or to each rural inhabitant of 0.46km2. These estimates are likely to be lower than
the true land use, as villages change territories to avoid overlapping other village lands. If each censused
village exclusively used the State allocated minimum of 78.5 km2, the total hunted area would be around
58% of the country’s land, or 154,645 km2
2.3.4 What is the regional use of forests for hunting?
The total area regularly hunted by the inhabitants of a village is fairly predictable across Central African
forests, with villages using between 0.25 and 1.96 km2/inhabitant. Figure 2.3.1 (Coad, 2007) shows how
the area hunted around a village increases with the size of the village. The average area hunted by villages
in central African forests is 0.96km2 per person, but villages using more intensive hunting strategies
(snaring) have smaller territories than those using gun hunting. The site with the highest area used per
person is in Ituri forest, where net hunting predominates in the south and bow and arrows in the north.
Figure 2.3.1: The relationship between hunted area and village population for studies across
central Africa (log transformed data).11
11 Source data: Coad, 2007 p. 195, compiled from 22 publishe d studies in Central African forests. Studies in Gabon have generally shown villages with relatively small
territories (<70km2). Data on the forest used per capita are not widely available for Gabon, where village level census data has not been released since 1993.
Part 2 Hunter practices
21
The Ogooue Lolo site (shown with a triangle) and has smaller size than expected; an average of
0.26km2 per inhabitant, but is hunted intensively, mainly using snares.
2.4 What is being hunted?
2.4.1 What are the current legal limits to catches?
Both customary and village hunting rights are limited to quotas for the hunters and allow only adult male
animals to be caught. Each hunter can take 3 of the same species or four of different species per day, up
to a total of 9 animals of all species counted together per week. In addition, licensed hunters under village
rights law can take some partially protected species using a shotgun12. Totally protected species can never
be legally hunted anywhere.
2.4.2 What are actual catches from village hunters?
Village hunting offtakes vary with distance from the village, the habitat type hunted and the methods
used. On a national scale, the local catch will vary also with the distribution of available wildlife and large
scale habitat changes. Several local studies have produced species lists for hunter offtakes, and some
general statistics can be useful to look at overall patterns in the diversity and proportions of different
types of animals.
The legal bag limit of 9 animals per week is generally not exceeded by village hunters. Though these limits
may be exceeded in occasional weeks, over the course of a year most village hunters do not catch these
numbers consistently. However, the zero limit on female and juvenile animals, and the legal protection of
some species are not generally respected at all, as snaring is not selective enough for the hunter to
prevent their capture.
When all the available data were compiled, between 2000 and 2006, 114 recognized species were
recorded in Gabon’s hunter catches, household consumption and markets. This figure is very high
compared to West African markets, where wildlife is already dramatically impacted (Ghana Wildlife
Society, 2005). The harvest of bushmeat is dramatically biased towards mammals, with 78 (46%) of
Gabon’s 171 mammal species represented. In comparison, only 22 (3%) of the 753 bird species and 10
12 2 sitatungas, 2 bushbuck, 1 giant forest hog, 10 red river hog , 10 mandrills, 2 Yell ow backed duikers and 2 servals. No elephants or buffalo are currently allowed as
the ‘Grande Chasse’ is closed
Part 2 Hunter practices
22
(6%) of the 160 reptile species are harvested13. All crocodilians are used. The bias in use of animal orders is
probably largely to do with body size, with many more mammals than bird or reptile species, and all the
crocodilians, falling into the preferred prey sizes of 2-20kgs. A full list of the species recorded can be found
in Annex 8.1.
Twenty-three of the partially protected species and 24 of the totally protected species were found to be
used as bushmeat, indicating the scant respect for these laws.
Individual localities recorded different levels of diversity in the original catch, reflecting the fundamental
relationship between habitat area and heterogeneity and animal species diversity, and the relatively low
animal diversity used by any one village.
Table 2.4.a: Animal diversity captured by local hunting communities and total bushmeat
species diversity recorded nationally in Gabon over 6 years14.
Location, year
Approximate area (km2)
Number of hunted species
recorded (total)
Makokou region, 1993
33
Ntsieté, 2006
45
23
Dibouka and Kouagna, 2003
111
50
7 Ogooue Lolo villages, 2002
281
45
National
267,667
114
National surveys of consumption of bushmeat in a variety of households from Libreville to remote villages
can give us an insight into what must be harvested, on a national scale, but meat is consumed in biased
proportions in different contexts, so data on the species present at points further on the commodity chain
must be handled with care and do not directly reflect all of the original offtake of wildlife.
Animals are not hunted equally frequently. The most frequently hunted animals are those between 2 and
22kg, with brush-tailed porcupines, blue duikers and red duikers forming the majority of the catch in
most forest areas in Gabon. Village hunter surveys carried out in a variety of locations in the last 20 years
have all discovered the top 5 species15 accounting for over 70% of the individuals hunted by a village
community. The top five species vary by locality, but always contain brush tailed porcupines, blue duikers,
and the red duiker group. The presence of other species depends on local circumstances but most
commonly includes guenons, pangolins, red river hog and water chevrotain (Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007;
Lahm, 1993; Okouyi, 2006; Van Vliet, 2008). When assessing catch by biomass rather than numbers, red
river hog are more often included in the top 5 species, and guenons less often included.
Village hunters target a small number of preferred species, whose management will be crucial for the
sustainability of hunting communities’ livelihoods. Hunters only gain small amounts of meat or revenue
from most other species, although the biological impacts on these species, especially larger and rarer
animals, may be intense, from even small amounts of hunting, as their densities and reproductive rates
are low.
Restriction of hunting of the rarer species will have a low impact on the meat and revenues available to
villagers, but a high impact on the survival of these species. The way different species are harvested and
traded is of key importance to planning for sustainable harvests to protect cultural traditions, the
13 Figures for the numbers of mammal, bird and reptile species found in Gabon, from the Smithsonian Institute, Gabon, 2008.
14 Lahm, 1993; van Vliet, 2008, Coad, 2007, Starkey, 2004. National data compiled from all sources (village hunter studies, market surveys, consumption surveys)
between 2000-2006.
15 Species’ cannot be or are not always correctly identified for each animal caug ht by a hunter, and so some groups o f species are necessarily considered for their
aggregated contribution. ‘Red duikers’, ‘small monkeys’ and ‘s mall carnivores’ or ‘reptiles’ are typical gr oupings in many studi es. Whilst this is of little relevance for many
points, it prevents analysis of biological impacts on individual species within these groups, which may be differently affected by hunting.
Part 2 Hunter practices
23
livelihoods of rural people and for wildlife conservation. The way different species are used and traded is
discussed further in sections 3.2.2, 4.1.6 and 4.5
The method of hunting, as well as the wildlife available, influences the catch. In two sites in Gabon, one
had relative low hunting intensity and one had relatively high hunting intensity as defined by the number
of hunter trips per year (see Table 2.4b below). The low intensity site was hunted mainly by snaring in the
1980’s, but by 2006 it was hunted mainly with guns. The proportions of mid sized prey (that can be
hunted by either method) has remained stable, but the proportion of porcupines fell significantly as guns
were used, and the proportion of primates and pigs increased significantly (Van Vliet & Nasi, 2008).
The site that is intensively hunted has mainly snares also (Coad, 2007). The proportion of smaller rodents
is very high and that of larger ungulates and primates very low.
The state of wildlife being hunted can to some extent be assessed by the success of the hunters (Robinson
and Bennett, 2000 for review). Although hunters are setting traps in a high density throughout the <5km
zone around villages, the returns from these traps show that closer than 3km to the village most wildlife
caught is <4kg weight (Coad, 2007; Van Vliet, 2008).
The most commonly caught species, the blue duikers and brush-tailed porcupines, are all species with
smaller territory sizes than the land areas left set aside at any given time in a village. This means they can
survive even close to villages, using the unhunted pockets of land. However, the loss of long-term rotation
of hunting areas means that hunting pressure on the land immediately surrounding a village has
effectively increased over the last 50 years and even these resilient species may be slowly declining now.
The loss of large species of wildlife from the area <5km from a village clearly shows that hunting close to
modern villages has not been sustainable to date for larger species, but understanding the potential for
sustainable harvest of smaller species is crucial to long term planning.
Table 2.4.b: Proportional
contribution of different
species of animals
captured by hunting
communities in different
studies16.
The proportions of species vary
significantly between sites.
Differences are probably
dependent on the wildlife
available and techniques used.
As hunting pressure is
sustained and wildlife
communities change, hunters
take smaller and more diverse
prey, and snaring becomes
more efficient than gun hunting.
Significant differences are seen
in the proportions of typically
snare-hunted porcupines and
typically gun-hunted red river
hog, whilst other taxa remain in
similar proportions, despite
methods.
16 Source data: Lahm, 1993; Coad, 2007; Van Vliet and Nasi, 2008
Animals
Percentage of all animals taken
Low intensity
hunting,
snares> guns
Low intensity
hunting,
guns>snares
High intensity
hunting,
snares> guns
Blue duikers
38.9
37.5
15.6
Primates
18.4
23.5
8.3
Red duikers
12.7
13
10.9
Porcupines
11.5
6
38.4
Carnivores
4.9
1
5.1
Water chevrotain
4.9
0.5
0
Pangolins
3.8
0
6
Small rodents
2.9
0
10.3
Reptiles
2.0
1
2.8
Red River hog
0.0
12.3
0.5
Other spp
0.0
5.2
2.1
Total catch
100
100
100
Part 2 Hunter practices
24
Figure 2.4.1: Relative proportions of different animals caught by hunters in a forest area17.
This distribution of species contributing to the catch is typical of most studies with few (<5) species
accounting for over 75% of the harvest, and most species contributing very little.
Figure 2.4.2: Changing species captures as hunters move out of a village18.
Small, generalist species persist close to the village, despite intensive trapping. Larger species, and
those specialist to intact forests, are found beyond the secondary vegetation 3-5km from the village.
Sitatunga, a marsh specialist and frequent crop raider, come closer to villages than their size would
suggest, as they are not confined to forest cover. Rarer species like apes or elephants tend to be
found even further away, in the 5+km zone. The overall number and local densities of apes and
elephants in Gabon are declining, even in protected remote forests and areas (Walsh et al, 2003;
Blake, 2007; Maisels, 2007; WWF, 2008). Their disappearance from village areas cannot be due to
migration to other places.
17 Data from Coad, 2007. 2647 animals caught by village subsistence hunters using a combination of snares and guns in Ogooue Lolo, 2003-2004.
18 Data presented are from 64 hunters snare trapping over 1 year in Ogooue Lolo, (Coad, 2007). The sa me patterns are found by Van Vliet, 2008 for 16-30 hunters, gun
hunting over 1 year in Ogooue Ivindo forests. In the gun-hunting data set, the catch is less diverse and does not include very small prey (smaller than 3kg).
Part 2 Hunter practices
25
2.5 How much bushmeat is hunted?
Although the vast majority of rural families are involved in hunting and benefit from it, the catch (and
benefits) are skewed, with a small number of families taking most of the meat. Over half the meat is
captured by just 10% of the most successful hunting families in a community, and the least successful half
of the hunting families share less than 10% of the meat (Lahm, 1993; Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007).
It is therefore difficult to use the success of any one family as typical, but the hunting of a whole
community or village seems to follow a similar pattern in many areas.
Quantifying how much wildlife is being hunted each year in Gabon is very difficult. There is no direct
measure of what is hunted, but estimates can be made in some simplistic ways, to give a rough
quantification of the scale of the harvest. This is probably a useful idea to have in order to discuss the
magnitude of economic mitigation that may be required if hunting or trade laws are changed. It is not
useful for wildlife conservation planning, as each species requirements will be different.
One way is to look at the mean number of animals killed per hunter, per inhabitant, or per km2 hunted in
village studies, and use this to estimate the number killed in the whole village area.
A second method would be to use the biomass killed each year in studies, and use these figures to
estimate the total catch.
Figure 2.5.1: The different success of hunting families in the Ogooue Lolo villages19.
The most successful family caught more meat than the 50 least successful families put together.
19 All bushmeat captured (kgs) by 92 families in 7 villages, followed for 9 months (2974 household days), Starkey, 2004, p.111.
Part 2 Hunter practices
26
2.5.1 How many individual animals?
In a typically heavily-hunted area of the rural domain (Dibouka and Kouagna, Ogooue Lolo) a village of 431
people caught 2,647 animals in one year. If this rate of harvest per capita is typical, this would equate to a
national harvest of around 1,725,480 animals for the 278,761 rural people in Gabon. However, this
estimate is likely to be high, as the animals hunted in this area are many and small (3.9kg average; Coad,
2007).
In a better wildlife area (Ntsieté in Ogooue Ivindo), hunters mean catch was 13.9kg and a similar village
(415 people) took only 706 animals in a year, which equates to an annual national subsistence harvest of
474,230 animals (Van Vliet, 2008).
Because the mean size of the animals caught is so different in the depleted area and the good area, these
very different numbers of animals actually produced a very similar weight of meat per inhabitant for these
two villages.
The true national annual offtake of animals is probably somewhere between 500,000 and 2,000,000
individuals per year, which is a very large range.
2.5.2 How many tonnes?
Calculations of the approximate mass of generic ‘bushmeat’ that is being hunted by the whole
subsistence village community can be made as above, from the offtake per capita in hunting communities
(i.e. Starkey, 2004, Coad 2007, Van Vliet, 2008), and the rural population estimate (RGPH, 2003). How
many animals this represents is impossible to say, as species and sizes will vary in each area.
Table 2.5.a: Estimates of the annual total national hunting offtake, from the amount hunted per
capita in two one-year village studies20
Estimate using per
capita figures
Notes
Annual biomass
23.85 kgs
23. 69 kg/capita/yr Van Vliet, 2008
20 Estimates of biomass per capita from one year studies of offtake in villages of known size, Van Vliet, 2008 and Coad, 2007.
Part 2 Hunter practices
27
returned per unit
23.95 kg/capita/yr Coad, 2007
Rural hunting
population
278,761 people
Rural population estimate, 2003
National offtake from
all villagers hunting
(kgs)
6,649,555
Losses to snaring at
8%
578,222 kgs
Coad, 2007
Total hunted mass
annually
7,228 tonnes
Estimate of Wildlife biomass hunted annually
by all villagers in Gabon.
Table 2.5.b Village offtake estimates weighted by the wildlife estimates for the hunting zone
<15km from village centres.
Wildlife Integrity
Area within 15km of a
village
Measured annual
offtake kgs/km21
Total national offtake
Depleted
128,049
93
11,909
Reasonable
41,347
221
9,138
Intact
0
TOTAL
169,400
21,047
Using the data that we have from two village studies, the annual national village harvest of bushmeat is
probably between 7 and 21 thousand tonnes. These estimates are clearly very approximate but give an
idea of the possible offtake from the country’s hunted area of about 130 kgs/ km2 annually.
Total biomass estimates can also be made from the amounts of bushmeat that people in different socio-
economic communities in Gabon are eating per capita and the census data for the people found in each
locality. These estimates are made in section 4.
However, estimations of the numbers or biomass of all bushmeat hunted are only of limited use in
determining threats to local wildlife, which will be different for each species within the faunal community.
2.5.3 Current sustainability of village bushmeat hunting
Because many villagers still rely on bushmeat for the majority of their protein and income, if modern
hunting is unsustainable, then these villagers’ livelihoods and well-being are at risk, as well as the wildlife.
21 Data from Coad, 2007 working in a depleted area and Van Vliet, 2008 working in a reasonable wildlife area. Methods and data used to derive maps of wildlife
integrity estimates for 2009 are given in section 6.
Part 2 Hunter practices
28
Despite their high biodiversity, tropical forests have low annual biological productivity and do not sustain
high yields of meat (Robinson & Redford, 1991). They can only support the total protein needs of a human
population up to about 1 human/km2.However, shifting agriculture within a rainforest and supplementing
the diet with other proteins (fish, insects, domestic meats and vegetables) can be used to support locally
higher human populations in a sustainable system (see Nasi et al., 2008 for review). The problem is to
determine the limits to this system. A hunting catch is only truly sustainable if the same quantities of meat
can be hunted year after year, with no change in the species or sizes of animals hunted.
There is no information recorded about the numbers and densities of wildlife in the past (prior to about
1960’s ‘modern’ hunting with vehicles, firearms and from permanent villages) and so changes in wildlife
are hard to quantify. However, some evidence indicates that current village-based hunting has probably
not been generally sustainable for all species over the last few decades.
2.5.3.1 Hunter reports
Hunters interviewed about the wildlife in their area all perceive a decline in the wildlife that can be caught
close to the village (Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007). In different areas, this can be a decline in the size of
animals caught, or a decline in their numbers, or both. No reports of wildlife increases have been
recorded close to hunting villages. Hunters perception of how much wildlife is left depends mainly on the
hunter’s own experience and leads to a ‘shifting baseline’ which masks the problem from younger people
(Pauly, 1995)22. Older men, who can remember the quantities of wildlife available 50 years ago, report a
>75% decline in the numbers of large species (apes, buffalo) near the village, whereas 20 year old men
only report much smaller declines, based on their own experience of what was there a decade ago
(Starkey, 2004).
2.5.3.2 Declining hunter catches
Hunter catches are accepted as a reasonable measure of the availability of wildlife. If wildlife is no longer
caught in a hunted area, it may be because it has been killed, it has migrated or it is hiding. Migrations
imply rising numbers in other areas, but these have not been recorded in Gabon (e.g. Maisels, 2007).
Cryptic behaviour of hunted species certainly does occur (i.e. Newing, 2001; Croes et al, 2006), but snaring
is indiscriminate of species activity patterns and will catch animals at any time of day or night. Declining
hunter returns from snaring are probably closely related to real wildlife declines.
Hunters using snares in some areas now report very low returns for very high trapping effort. For
bushmeat to fully support the current average rural family size of 6 AME at the minimum protein
requirement of 70g/AME/day, then the hunter must bring back at least 420g / day. In a wildlife depleted
area, only 25% of the hunters managed this level of return from their snaring efforts and the most
successful hunter bringing back only 600g per day (Coad, 2007).
Even in relatively good wildlife areas, less than 20% of hunters have never had to resort to other
employment (Van Vliet, 2008) and in depleted areas, returns are so low that hunters will abandon hunting
for employment if offered a chance (Coad, 2007).
In response to low returns (few and small animals) close to the villages, hunters increase the catchment
area, moving further away from the village. However, snare losses are high when the snares are far away,
access to guns is limited to richer households and available forest is limited, meaning that for many poorer
village hunters, the low snaring returns could endanger their livelihoods.
22 ‘Shifting baselines’ refer to the ability of people only to judge against their own experience. So if a 75 year old man found gorillas once a week as a 15 year old when
hunting from hi s village and now meets them only once a month, he sees a 75% decl ine and is worried. The 25 year old, starting out 60 years later, saw gorillas only
once in 3 weeks when he was 15 years old. Now he meets them once every month, He sees only an 8% decline and does not perceive it as threatening , even though he
is observing the same true decline.
Part 2 Hunter practices
29
2.5.3.3 Declining wildlife
Several studies have now shown that a lot of wildlife species are declining near to human settlements and
that the declines are severest in large-bodied animals. Censuses carried out by transects, ‘recce-transect’
walks and camera trapping across Gabon have all shown an absence of large wildlife near humans. Apes,
elephants, large ungulates are now found almost exclusively in areas > 5km from villages and elephants
>10km from roads (Laurance et al., 2006; Buij et al., 2007; Blake 2007; Maisels, 2007; Henschel, 2008;
Henschel et al., 2009; Kuehl et al., 2009)
2.5.3.4 Resilient wildlife
In contrast to the evidence against sustainable hunts of larger animals, there is some evidence that
current hunting of smaller animals, particularly of some species, may be more sustainable (Van Vliet,
2008; Van Vliet & Nasi, 2008). Blue duikers, rats, brush-tailed porcupine and even some red duiker species
are still found in high numbers close to villages. Despite essentially unrestricted hunting for subsistence
for many decades from a fixed village, these species still persist in low numbers.
However, commercial hunting supplies a potentially enormous demand and could quickly push species
that are hunted sustainably for local consumption into decline. Recent technical advances (LED torches for
night hunts, widespread electricity for freezing meat and improved transport routes) improve the hunters’
ability to supply fresh meat to more distant commercial markets and thus increase the hunt beyond
locally sustainable proportions even for these species, as has been the case in most West African
countries (i.e. Ghana Wildlife Society, 2005). A plan for reliable long-term sustainable management must
include careful monitoring of these resilient species in the future.
2.6 Why are people hunting?
Most hunters are residents of rural villages where bushmeat is an important source of both meat and
income. These men are hunting to supply food to their families, and to gain cash revenues for essential
services and products (schools, medicines, other foods, fuel), as well as for some luxury goods. In
communities where alternative sources of revenue are rare, cash income from bushmeat can be deemed
a subsistence activity also and this money can be as critical to the survival of these families as the protein
itself. Bushmeat is still culturally significant as part of family ceremonies like initiations, circumcisions or
marriages and at certain times of the year, the majority of the catch can be for cultural ceremonies,
though it also provides food on these occasions. The dry season is the time when most ceremonies are
held in Gabon, and hunting is increased in some regions (particularly the north and north east) at this
time. Near Makokou, half of all the animals caught for the year were caught in the dry season months of
July and August and the number of active hunters increased by 30% (Okouyi, 2006; van Vliet and Nasi,
2008).
Generally, village hunters eat a portion of their catch, and sell a portion, once their household food needs
are met. The fate of the portion they sell is further discussed in section 3.2.1. The relative amount that
bushmeat contributes to a household depends on the household economics. Starkey (2004) and
Carpaneto (2007) found that the access a village had to a market was a strong influence on how much
bushmeat was hunted and consumed. People in remote villages with poor market access hunted more
bushmeat, consumed more bushmeat and bushmeat was more important in their household economies,
than for villagers who could easily access markets. The analyses from Starkey (2004) are summarised in
Table 1.5.a below.
Although the patterns of bushmeat use are highly influenced by market access, household wealth is also
significant in determining the benefits derived from bushmeat. Starkey (2004, p 127), Wilkie et al, (2005)
and Coad (2007) all show that within the rural sector (the poorest part of the national population), the
wealthiest families are most successful at hunting and derive the most absolute benefit from bushmeat.
Part 2 Hunter practices
30
Hunters hunting for entirely commercial sale (often salaried by a reseller in the commodity chain) are
likely to be fewer than those involved in subsistence activities, and are often hunting in areas outside of
traditional village controls (remote areas, logging concessions). Their only gain is cash and their
involvement in the industry entirely reliant on the commercial trade of bushmeat, but simpler to
understand than subsistence hunters who make a daily choice between the different gains from hunting,
agriculture or other activities.
Table 2.6.a: The relative benefits and use of bushmeat in remote and accessible villages23.
The shading gives an overview of the consistency of the trends with geographic location. Remote
villages are the poorest communities, and hunt and use most bushmeat. Bushmeat forms a greater
proportion of their diet, production and income than for families with access to markets.
Measure
Access to markets
Remote
Medium
Close
Absolute biomass hunted
(kg/household/day)
1.93 - 3.94
1.54 - 2.29
0.64 - 1.42
Absolute bushmeat consumption
(kg/AME/day)
0.23 - 0.82
0.16 - 0.50
0.08 - 0.12
Proportion of protein from bushmeat
(% kg consumed/AME/day)
18.7 - 24.5
13.1 - 20.3
12.7 - 12.8
Proportion of production from bushmeat
(% total pppUS$/AME/day,2002)
29.1 - 33.2
17.4 - 26.0
14.6 - 20.3
Absolute income
(pppUS$/day, 2002)
0.56 - 1.39
0.14 - 2.13
2.68 - 3.16
Proportion of income from bushmeat (%)
61 - 72
32 - 42
15 - 30
Status relative to other villages
Highest
Medium
Lowest
23 Source data: Starkey, 2004, Chap 5.
Part 2 Hunter practices
31
2.6.1 How much bushmeat do hunters and their families eat?
The proportion of the biomass caught that is consumed by the family is remarkably consistent, ranging
from 40-44% studies in villages (Lahm, 1993; Carpaneto 2007 (1992 data), Coad, 2007; Starkey, 2004; Van
Vliet, 2008).
Forest villagers consume around 270g per AME24 per day on average, ranging from 80g 800g/AME/day
(Wilkie et al, 2005; Starkey, 2004; Gally & Jeanmart, 1996) Villagers in remote forest sites are the highest
consumers in the country and absolute per capita consumption declines rapidly with access to
alternatives and higher income (see Table 2.6.a for comparison to less remote rural forest villages).
Studies of bushmeat consumption across the country in 2003 showed that villagers used bushmeat and
freshwater fish similarly, so that one could be substituted for the other.
Figure 2.6.1: The amounts of bushmeat and fish consumed by villagers in different habitats25.
Fish and bushmeat seem to act as dietary substitutes, i.e. if one is not available, or more expensive,
families will replace it with the other.
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
0.25
0.3
0.35
0.4
0.45
Bushmeat Fis h
For est v illage s Co as ta l v ill age s
Protein requirements depend on gender, body mass, age and lifestyle, but around 70g - 100/AME/day is
accepted as ensuring food security in protein, for an active adult lifestyle (FAO-WHO, 2009; British
Nutrition Foundation, 2009). On average, Gabon’s villagers currently make sufficient returns on their
hunting and fishing activities to ensure food security using these resources.
Bushmeat in rural Gabon is probably as important in food security through its role as a source of income
as it is as a source of protein. Blaney (2008) found that rural villagers were not protein deficient, using
bushmeat to fulfill their whole protein requirement, but were classed as food insecure due to the amount
of their income used to buy other foods. This is discussed in more depth in section 3.2.7.
2.6.2 Village dietary alternatives to bushmeat
Families that do not hunt, or do not catch enough, in villages must gain protein by some other means.
Farming of domestic livestock is very rare in Gabon and its contribution to village consumption is
negligible. Starkey (2004) shows domestic meat contributing only 0.4% of household production in
villages.
24 AME refers to the standard measure ‘adult male equ ivalent’ which allows better comparison between places with different demographic profiles than ‘per capita’. The
consumption of women and children is standardized as a proportion on an adult man’s average consumption (Deaton, 1997).
25 Data from consumption surve ys i n 1 215 village s house holds in Gabon, 2003 and 3001 village households in 2005: Wilkie et al, 2005 and Abernethy et et al.,
unpublished data.
Part 2 Hunter practices
32
Surveys of household acquisition of food show that villagers eat 70 times as much bushmeat as domestic
meat26. All domestic meat is bought and bushmeat is typically the least expensive and most available
protein at around less than 50% the price of the best alternative, whilst domestic meat or poultry are the
most expensive and the least available (Wilkie et al., 2005; Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007; this report).
Table 2.6.b: Price comparison for meats available in various villages.
*In the Ogooue Lolo study, only two meat alternatives (canned sardines and cassoulet) were
available in the one shop.
Villages
Price range
for meats on
sale (fcfa/kg)
(N meat or
fish
alternatives)
Average
price for
alternative
meats
(fcfa)
Average price
for fresh
bushmeat
(fcfa/kg)
Bushmeat
price as a
percentage
of cheapest
alternative
(%)
Haut Ogooue 2003
1500 2600
(N=17)
1935
835
56
Ogooue Lolo, 2003
2400 2500
(N=2)
2400
1037
43
Ogooue Ivindo 2004
1300 2000
(N=17)
1579
806
62
Coastal and large river villages have better access to fish than the forest villages of the Ogooue Lolo and in
these areas fish is used as a substitute to bushmeat. When fish consumption goes up, bushmeat
consumption goes down (Wilkie et al. 2005).
2.6.3 Village alternatives to hunting employment or bushmeat revenues
Salaried employment in villages is rare. In surveys of village income in Ogooue Lolo, Haut Ogooue and
Ogooue Maritime27, only 8% of families had a member in employment. Coad (2007) found only 10 men
(8.2%) employed out of a population of about 121 full-time resident men, and Starkey (2004) found that
<2.5% of average household production came from paid employment.
During 2 recent studies28 of forest village economy in a wildlife-depleted area of Ogooue Lolo, average
daily income from hunting was 100fcfa/day, though a maximum daily return of over 50,000fcfa was
recorded. Hired labour during this time was paid at a standard wage of 3,000fcfa/day and many,
particularly less-successful, hunters, were prepared to abandon hunting if employment was offered. Six
out of the 10 employed men in Dibouka had left or reduced their hunting in favour of employment when
it was offered during the year studied, and all hunters over 20 had had some form of paid employment at
some point in their lives (Coad, 2007, p. 102)
In Ogooue Ivindo, in a more wildlife rich area where the prey size was four times as great as in Ogooue
Lolo29, hunters typically made a gross income of between 50,000 and 200,000fcfa a month, equivalent to
a wage of 2,300 9,100fcfa/day, from which costs of arms, lights and ammunition must be deduced.
26 Data from 1206 household surveys in 2003 and 3001 household surveys in 2005, across Gabon. Wilkie et al, 2005; Abernethy et al., unpublished.
27 Data from surveys of the socio-economic status of 874 village households in 2003 and 2005. Wilkie et al and Abernethy et al., unpublished
28 Starkey, 2004; Coad, 2007;
29 Van Vliet, 2008; Okouyi, 2006;
Part 2 Hunter practices
33
(Okouyi, 2006). In these communities, 16% of hunters over 20 had never had paid employment in their
lives, gaining income solely from subsistence activities of hunting-gathering, fishing and agriculture.
In areas where wildlife is depleted, hunting can no longer provide sufficient returns for survival and even
in areas where wildlife is relatively rich, less than a fifth of men can manage without alternative incomes.
Increased agricultural production could offset reductions in hunting, but market access is a significant
factor in gaining wealth from agricultural effort (Starkey, 2004, Chap 5) and remote villages are unlikely to
be able to replace hunting gains with increased agricultural production. Without domestic livestock-
raising traditions, current agricultural practices cannot replace the meat or income supplied by hunting in
remote rural Gabon.
34
3 THE COMMODITY CHAIN
Once hunters have captured bushmeat in the forest, they make a decision either to feed their families or
to sell the meat. Once the meat is sold, a commodity chain begins. In Gabon this often leads through
several hands to a final market in the large cities, and even on to international export.
3.1 Current legal status of trade in bushmeat in Gabon
3.1.1 Closed seasons
Legally, only customary hunting rights are valid during the closed season between 15th September and the
15th March30 and these do not allow any sale of meat beyond the village community where it was hunted,
including to members of this community elsewhere31. During the rest of the year village and forestry
concession hunting are also legal, but meat hunted on forestry concessions cannot be transported or
traded outside the concession (Christy, 2006).
3.1.2 Trading licences
Bushmeat from legal village or customary hunting can be traded freely to members of the hunter’s village
(or for village hunts, to family elsewhere in quantities for personal consumption only). For trade outside
the village, the hunter must hold a commerce permit as well as his hunting permit, and each carcass must
be permitted32. This permit then passes with it at each point of sale to the consumer or restaurant.
Bushmeat cannot be transported or traded at all outside the village between 15th September and March
15th, when village hunting is banned.
The existence of some form of year-round commodity chain is currently equally as essential to village food
and livelihood security as the meat consumed, as villagers currently have few alternatives for generating
cash. The existing laws are in general well-designed to support rural needs for protein, which can be
hunted under the customary rights laws all year round, but do not allow for year-round cash needs of
hunting families. The need for income could be replaced by other income-generating activities or by
limited trade opportunities in the closed season. The underlying reasons for rural poverty and lack of
alternative economic opportunity, which seem to lie in reduced market access, will need to be addressed
alongside any strategy to regulate bushmeat trading for subsistence needs.
3.1.3 Enforcement
Current enforcement of the laws on transport and commerce of bushmeat is very low. The reliance of
village communities on illegal hunting in the closed season and illegal commerce of their meat makes
enforcement impossible locally, where it would cause hardship to many families. In addition, with so
many hunters wishing to trade some meat, the permitting authority (the Ministry of Water and Forests)
does not currently have sufficient presence on the ground in villages to make permitting of hunter-
traders, or legally hunted carcasses feasible (Wilkie et al., 2006).
30 Article 184 of the Forestry Code and article 2 of the Decree nº 679/PR/MEFE of the 28 July 1994, fixing the open and closed seasons for hunting.
31 Articles 4 & 7 of Decree n° 692/PR/MEFEPEPN of the 24 August 2004 fixing the conditions for exercise of customary usage hunting rights.
32 Article 197 of the Forestry Code, Articles 2, 3, 4 and 7 of the Decree n° 677/PR/MEFE of the 28 July 1994 relative to special agreements for trade in products from
hunting.
Part 3 Commodity chain
35
It is likely that unregulated commercial trade will be unsustainable and will reduce the wildlife resource to
a level where rural subsistence communities cannot survive (BCTF, Nasi et al, 2008). The current laws
require revision of their content and particularly their application on the ground, in order to ensure good
regulation and therefore sustainability of the bushmeat harvest without destruction of the faunal
communities and natural heritage of the land.
Figure 3.1.1: The commodity chain in Gabon.
A simplified representation of the commodity chain operating, grouping varied hunter, consumer and
reseller profiles into single units. The pie charts show the sources of household meat consumed in
3001 surveyed homes in 200533. The category ‘Markets’ refers to fixed place selling, where the client
goes specifically to acquire meat. ‘Vendor’ includes ordered meat, restaurants, door-to-door
salesmen, roadside offer. ‘Family hunted’ includes gifted meat as well as that hunted directly by
family members. The increasing importance of commercialised meat and markets is clear as meat
moves down the chain to Libreville. ‘Resellers’ include those selling to an open market, on-command
traders, transporters and restaurateurs.
3.2 Production of commodity bushmeat: sale from the hunter
3.2.1 How much meat will a hunter sell?
As detailed in section 2 most hunters are village-based and hunt primarily for subsistence needs. On
average, these hunters’ families consume around 60% of the animals in their catch, and the rest are sold
to provide essential income, beginning a commercial trade in the resource.
Near Makokou, 70% of hunters hunt for subsistence and around 30% of all hunters recorded in the area
were hunting only for commercial ends (Van Vliet & Nasi, 2008; Okouyi, 2006). This is probably typical of
towns with transport access to ship meat out. In villages with limited market access, all hunters used a
portion of their catch for family subsistence needs and only 68% of hunters sold any meat at all (Coad,
2007).
33 Data from 3001 household consumption surveys carried out 8 locations in Gabon in 2005, Abernethy et al., 2006.
Resellers
Resellers
EXPORT
Vil l a ge s
Village
hunters
Resellers
Markets
Vendors
Family hunting
SMALL
TOWNS
LARGE
TOWNS
Itinerant
commercial
hunters
VILLAGE
SS
LIBREVILLE
Part 3 Commodity chain
36
Hunters sell more bushmeat when they have more in their total catch (Starkey, 2004), which is a
reflection of the basic need to satisfy protein requirements before cash requirements. Their decision of
which part of their catch to sell is consistently biased to larger animals (Lahm, 1993; Starkey, 2004;
Okouyi, 2006; Coad, 2007; Van Vliet, 2008).
Figure 3.2.134: More meat can be sold when more is caught.
Rural families are consuming on average about 270g (80-800g) of bushmeat per adult male
equivalent (AME)35 per day (Blaney, 2008; Starkey, 2004), however, minimum nutritional needs are
only about 70g / AME/day even if bushmeat is the only source of protein. In theory, once minimum
food requirements are satisfied, the hunter can then sell the remainder of his catch.
3.2.2 Which animals are sold?
The decision to sell larger animals is based on hunter perception that they are worth more. Larger animals
of a given species command a higher price and larger species commanded higher prices per animal than
smaller species (Lahm, 1993; Starkey, 2004; Okouyi, 2006, Carpaneto et al, 2007; Coad 2007, van Vliet,
2008).
No particular species is always sold or always eaten, and an animal’s fate is not always a simple function of
its size, but also of the total amount of that catch and which other species were in the catch, the hunter’s
relative needs for meat or cash, the current sale demand and some effect of consumer preferences. For
instance, brush-tailed porcupines are sold more often than expected (Coad, 2007), and are a particularly
preferred meat some species have locally restricted sales, because of taboos about their consumption
and some have additional value as medicine or ceremonial trophies (i.e. carnivore pelts). (Okouyi, 2006;
Schenck et al, 2006).
Figure 3.2.2: The mean proportion of animals sold, showing consistent choice for sale of
larger animals and consumption of smaller ones in hunting families across 4 studies36.
Sizes are approximately Small>2kg, Medium 2-15kg, Large >15kg. Porcupines are sold
disproportionately often for their size, as they are a widely preferred meat (see section 4.5)
34 N=92 households followed through 9 months. S = 0.504259 R-Sq = 85.0 % R-Sq(adj) = 84.8 %. Starkey, 2004, p.118.
35 This standardisation is useful in order to aggregate and compare total consumption between areas where average family size and population demography are
different (see James & Schofield, 1990).
36 N=fate of 3607 animals hunted by hunters in Lahm, 1993, Coad, 2007, Carpaneto et al., 2007 and Van Vliet, 2008.
Part 3 Commodity chain
37
As an approximate rule, hunters judge the average size of an animal caught in their area and will be more
likely to sell animals of this size or larger and