Illegal hunting undermining food security and wildlife-based land uses in Mozambique
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:21
TRAFFIC in Conservation awareness, Wild meat

A TRAFFIC study in Central Mozambique found illegal hunting was commonly practiced using large gin traps made from car leaf springs Click image to enlarge © Peter Lindsey 9th May 2012—A new TRAFFIC study finds that illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade have resulted in a major decline in wildlife populations in Central Mozambique, significantly undermining potential for viable wildlife-based land uses and resulting in the loss of a traditional source of protein for local communities.

The study of Coutada 9 found that wildlife populations in the 4,450 square km protected area in Manica province are currently less than 10% of what the area could support, with several species, including rhinoceroses, Roan Antelopes African Wild Dogs locally extirpated through illegal hunting.

Significantly reducing such illegal hunting and allowing wildlife populations to recover would allow the generation of significant economic benefits through trophy hunting and potentially ecotourism. In addition, an additional 86 tonnes of wild meat could be generated from Coutada 9, if hunting was limited to regulated harvesting based on a quota system.

“The implications for the food security of local people are obvious, while restoring wildlife populations would have clear conservation benefits too,” said David Newton, Director of TRAFFIC’s East and Southern Africa programme.

According to the report, Illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade in Central Mozambique (PDF, 2.1 MB), illegal hunting over time is now costing local communities an estimated USD308,000 per year in lost opportunities, while the current annual cost of anti-poaching measures in Coutada 9 amounts to USD60,000.

The estimated annual loss of potential income from safari hunting totals USD1.62 million per year.

“Illegal hunting is an extremely inefficient use of wildlife resources because it fails to capture the value of wildlife achievable through alternative forms of use such as trophy hunting and ecotourism,” said Peter Lindsey, author of the new study.

“By undermining earnings from wildlife-based land uses, and reducing the supply of legal game meat, illegal hunting is costing local people dearly.”

According to the study, illegal hunting is most commonly practiced with the use of dogs and muzzle-loaders, and large gin traps made from car leaf springs, while those carrying out the hunting are typically local poor, food-insecure men in their 30s and 40s.

Illegal hunting is indiscriminate and the gin traps used kill females, young animals and non-target species. Predators seem particularly affected, and numerous cases of lions lacking toes or even whole paws have been observed.

Sometimes animals suffer for days after being caught in the home-made traps; in 2009, a young elephant was observed in Coutada 9 dragging a gin trap which had closed on its foot. Over a five-year period, an estimated 3,500–4000 gin traps were confiscated and disposed of in Coutada 9.

Although some illegally sourced meat is consumed by hunters, most is sold in villages or along roads within 50 km of Coutada 9, with some sold to middlemen, who transport it to more distant urban centres. Typical buyers of bushmeat are those with a cash income, such as businesspeople or teachers.

However, according to the report “government officials and police are known to purchase bushmeat despite the clear illegality of the source, creating a conflict of interest which may discourage effective policing of illegal hunting.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, particularly aimed at both government and the hunting operators who lease coutadas in Central Mozambique. The Mozambique government is advised to conduct land-use planning and zoning in coutadas to provide for a rational alignment of wildlife areas and that used for settlement and agriculture. In addition, efforts are needed to re-stock the depleted coutada hunting blocks with wildlife to allow for viable wildlife-based land uses.

There is also a need for more effective enforcement of laws pertaining to illegal hunting. Hunting operators who lease coutadas should be “encouraged to invest in the development of sustainable and mutually profitable projects involving communities, to provide alternative livelihood options for illegal hunters,” and “required to provide a sustainable legal supply of affordable game meat to communities, as an alternative to illegally sourced supply,” says the report.

“Above all, this study amply demonstrates that planned, sustainable use of the wildlife resources available in Central Mozambique makes perfect sense from a human welfare, conservation and economic perspective, but that several changes are needed to achieve these aims,” said Newton.

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