Socioeconomic drivers of illegal bushmeat hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Illegal bushmeat hunting of economically and ecologically valuable wildlife populations is common in the wildlife-rich areas of Northern Botswana. Due to the unregulated and hidden nature of illegal hunting, little information exists on the drivers of the bushmeat industry. We conducted interviews with bushmeat hunters and heads of rural households in the Okavango Delta about hunting activities, rural livelihoods, attitudes towards wildlife, and market characteristics of illegal bushmeat. We found that illegal-hunter households (n=119, 25% of the sample) lived in closer proximity to wildlife, were more likely to farm crops, and more often received income from formal employment than non-hunter households. Bushmeat hunting was positively correlated with livestock wealth but not associated with household income level. Most households (84%) described incurring costs from living with wildlife, but these experiences were not related to the frequency of illegal hunting and hunters were more likely to value wildlife than non-hunters. In contrast to widespread perceptions, we conclude that bushmeat hunting and consumption in Botswana is generally supplemental to household core income sources rather than essential for subsistence. We propose two broadly different yet mutually important potential interventions to counter the negative impacts of illegal hunting on the region’s lucrative predominantly wildlife-based economy: 1) more effective law enforcement with penalties sufficient to confer costs for hunting illegally, and 2) development of alternative legitimate wildlife-based revenue streams that engage communities more directly in wildlife management and conservation.
Matt fell in love with the African savannah while studying abroad in Tanzania. After completing his undergraduate degree in English and Politics, Matt moved back to Tanzania where he spent several years as a research assistant and lodge manager. He went on to earn a Master’s in Environmental Management from Duke University, with a focus on ecosystem science and conservation. Subsequently, Matt coordinated a year-long research project on illegal bushmeat hunting in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Matt joined iCWild in 2015 in collaboration with Panthera’s Leopard Program. For his PhD, he is using long-term leopard monitoring data to improve our understanding of leopard population ecology and status in southern Africa.

Tue, 23 Apr 2019 -
12:50 to 14:00

CSSR Seminar room,4.29 Leslie Social Science Building,upper campus

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