Social, biological, and environmental drivers of the hunting and trade of the endangered yellow-footed tortoise in the Amazon
Thaís Q Morcatty, Research Group on Terrestrial Vertebrate Ecology, Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute
João Valsecchi, Research Group on Terrestrial Vertebrate Ecology, Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute
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Chelonians constitute an important source of food and income for the inhabitants of tropical forests. We assessed the social, biological, and environmental factors affecting the hunting and trade of the endangered yellow-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulata
) in rural and urban areas in the Amazon and estimated the sustainability of tortoise use. We also discuss possible conservation alternatives that are compatible with the needs of local inhabitants. We monitored tortoise hunting and trade for 12 years in 10 traditional communities that exploit different habitat types in the Brazilian Amazon and collected data on the tortoise trade in two urban markets for six years. In upland forests, tortoise hunting mainly occurred during the dry season; in whitewater flooded forests, hunting mainly occurred during the flood season. The tortoise trade was carried out nearly entirely by whitewater flooded forest users and was intimately related to fishing, the main economic activity in these communities. Furthermore, the tortoise trade was encouraged in whitewater flooded forests because this environment yielded significantly heavier tortoises than upland forests, and we observed a strong relationship between trade probability and tortoise size. The tortoise trade was found to primarily supply nearby urban centers, generating high monetary gain. Female tortoises suffered greater hunting pressure and were more valued in the bushmeat market. The productivity of tortoise hunting in the monitored communities severely decreased with time. In addition, the price per kilogram of tortoise greatly increased in the urban market. Given this unsustainable scenario, policies regulating tortoise hunting in the Amazon are needed. These policies must be adapted to the different patterns of tortoise use by rural communities while maintaining the culture and food sovereignty of the local inhabitants.
bushmeat market; chelonians; hunting sustainability; rural communities
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