COS 40-1 - The social and ecological dimensions of hunting in Tropical East Asia

Wednesday, August 10, 2016: 8:00 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm A, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center


Charlotte H. Chang, Princeton University; Maarten J.L.F. Cruyff, Utrecht University; David S. Wilcove, Princeton University; Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

Unregulated hunting is a major threat to tropical vertebrates. Previous research on hunting in the tropics has generally assumed that the main motivations for hunters are pecuniary or subsistence reward. However, findings in artisanal fisheries and hunting systems across the Afrotropics and Asian tropics have also demonstrated that non-financial motivations—such as cultural rituals and entertainment practices—can be a major imperative for rural fishers and hunters. In Southwest China, hunting has extirpated mammal and bird species from protected areas; understanding why villagers continue to hunt in the face of falling yield and less diverse catch portfolios is critical for effective management. In this study, we used quantitative and qualitative surveys of 200 villagers and 30 focal hunters to elucidate the motivations and behavioral practices of hunters. Respondents in both studies reported incomes far above subsistence poverty levels and land holdings much larger than that of the typical smallholder in China. We are combining our findings on the social dimensions of hunting with field measurements of bird and mammalian diversity and abundance. These data will be used to identify how hunting pressure and habitat features affect exploited taxa. We will also evaluate the extent to which individual target species contribute to and sustain overall hunting pressure. 


Our findings in the 200 villager study indicate that up to 1/3 of the men in the study region have hunted birds in the past year despite widespread awareness of regulations prohibiting firearms ownership and hunting wildlife in protected areas. Recreational practices and respondent attitudes regarding the entertainment value of hunting tended to distinguish hunters from non-hunters. The 30 focal hunters overwhelmingly indicated that recreation was the primary motive for hunting. In an entry-exit questionnaire, their exit willingness was not strongly associated with expected catch. This further supports the notion that leisure can be an important driver of behavior. The various catch scenarios presented would yield negligible financial reward at current market rates for bushmeat in Southwest China. The hunters also employ a variety of tactics to evade legal enforcement and the current enforcement regime has produced bottom-up cooperation against complying with hunting regulations.