By Jeremy Hance
In the effort to protect the Serengeti—arguably Africa's most famous ecosystem—one of the major problems is the bushmeat trade. Population growth, little available protein, poverty, and a long-standing history of hunting has led many communities to poach wildlife within Serengeti National Park. Interviewing over a thousand community members in the western Serengeti, scientists found that community members are largely aware that wildlife hunting is illegal and that conservation of wild species is important, but hunt animals anyway partly out of necessity.
"Communities in western Serengeti are involved in wildlife hunting not because they lack knowledge about the illegality of wildlife hunting and the importance of conservation of wildlife species, but because they lack alternative sources of meat," the researchers write in the new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. They further note that despite promises, local communities find little economic gain from the park.
Hunting by permit is legal in parts of Serengeti National Park, but the researchers write that local communities avoid legal hunting because the price is far too high. Most legal hunters in the region are foreign trophy hunters.
"They are neither able to afford licensing fees nor allowed to use traditional weapons under the current legislation," the researchers write. "In reality, legal hunting is not an option for local people in areas like Serengeti, since no hunting quotas are granted to local people at affordable terms. For local hunters, the economic benefits from sales of illegally acquired bush meat are far greater than the costs associated with a low probability of arrest and prosecution. The result is a persistent problem for wildlife conservation."
In order to mitigate poaching by local communities, the researchers recommend programs and initiatives to diversify incomes, reduce poverty, increase food security, and provide better wildlife and conservation education in the western Serengeti.
CITATION:Bitanyi, S., Nesje, M., Kusiluka, L. J. M., Chenyambuga, S. W. and Kaltenborn, B. P. 2012. Awareness and perceptions of local people about wildlife hunting in western Serengeti communities. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(2):208-224.