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Indicators of ecological change: an inter-site comparison of a concurrent monitoring of wildlife occurrence and hunting activity in central Africa

Cornélis D., Van Vliet G., Gaidet N., Nguinguiri J.C., Nasi R., Billand A., Le Bel S.. 2015. In : Visconti P. (ed.), Game E. (ed.), Mathevet R. (ed.), Wilkerson M. (ed.). Proceedings of the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology and 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology " Mission biodiversity: choosing new paths for conservation". Washington DC : SCB, p. 138-138. International Congress for Conservation Biology. 27, 2015-08-02/2015-08-06, Montpellier (France).

Choosing and adapting wildlife management options ideally requires appropriate and affordable information on trends in animal populations and offtakes over several years. In African tropical forests, most studies have been documenting separately wildlife abundance, offtake and consumption of bushmeat. In addition, most site-level assessments were so far implemented using different methodologies, thus limiting the potential for meta-analysis at inter-site level. Yet, measuring concurrently spatial patterns of wildlife occurrence and hunting activities at different sites along gradients of human pressure (land conversion, human density) may provide a useful basis to identify indicators of non-sustainability of hunting, and to help predict temporal trends at site level. In this study, we implemented a standard protocol aiming at assessing bushmeat use and availability over 6 hunting grounds located in the Congo Basin (Gabon, Congo, and Democratic Republic of Congo). This preliminary diagnostic was conducted to evaluate the feasibility of testing community-based hunting approaches in the framework of a FAO/GEF project. For this purpose, we mapped the contours and the principal features of every hunting ground, and characterized the management rules, wildlife resources, hunting practices, offtakes and consumption. Results of the comparison between sites show how indicators of game species availability (e.g. species diversity, abundance indices, etc.) and resource use (e.g. catch per unit effort, ratio between small and large body-sized species, composition of the catch, etc.) vary in contexts of contrasted hunting pressure. We discuss their respective relevance as a basis for implementing evidence-based wildlife management strategies through adaptive management.

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