photo: Liam K via flickr
In another wrinkle in the ongoing saga of the bushmeat trade in Africa and declining ape populations, a new report published in the Journal of Biological Conservation shows that commercial hunters from urban centers have a greater impact than subsistence farmers on apes:The research shows that gorillas and chimpanzees appear to have dwindled twice as much near towns in Gabon than near small villages. This was determined by counting sleeping nests left by gorillas and chimps in Gabon's Moukalaba Doudou National Park, which declined the closer they got to towns.
The absence of chimp and gorilla nests near the towns now confirms what might be expected: that ape populations have already suffered from commercial hunting. Because the researchers did not find a similar depletion of nests near smaller villages, they also conclude that any ape meat that makes it to the urban areas is not brought and sold there by the villagers, but results from organized hunting trips from the towns people themselves. (New Scientist)
The implication of this is that conservation efforts should focus first on curtailing commercial hunting, and focusing on trying to convince villagers to give up subsistence hunting after that.