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Bushmeat networks link the forest to urban areas in the trifrontier region between Brazil, Colombia, and Peru

Nathalie van Vliet, Center for International Forestry Research
Maria Paula Quiceno, Fundación Science International
Daniel Cruz, Fundación Science International
Lindon Jonhson Neves de Aquino, Universidade Federal do Amazonas
Blanca Yagüe, Independent consultant
Tatiana Schor, Geography Department, Federal University of Amazonas; NEPECAB
Sara Hernandez, Independent Expert in Environmental Economics
Robert Nasi, Center for International Forestry Research


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Recent studies have intended to quantify urban consumption and trade in Amazonian towns. However, little is still known about the different ways in which bushmeat is made available in urban areas, including commercial and noncommercial flows, and how those flows contribute to link forests to urban livelihoods. In this study we qualitatively describe the structure and functioning of bushmeat flows in terms of species, catchment area, stakeholders involved, and the motivations for their activity in the main towns of the Amazon trifrontier region between Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. We show that bushmeat trade to urban areas exists under an organized but invisible commodity chain providing a source of income to about 195 persons. Bushmeat is made available either directly from the hunter to the urban consumer, at the main market place, or in food stalls and restaurants. On the Colombian border, the trade is totally invisible, whereas in Peru and Brazil, bushmeat is sold in open markets despite regulations. The catchment area comprises the main rivers: up to Caballococha along the Amazon River, along the Atacuary River in Peru, along the Javari River between Peru and Brazil, and along the Loretoyacu and Amacayacu rivers in Colombia and in periurban forests. Although the trade is rather localized (no commercial flows to larger towns), international transborder trade is commonplace, disregarding Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulations. Bushmeat clients in urban areas are mainly nonindigenous or mestizos who can afford bushmeat as a luxury meal. Instead, indigenous people in urban areas do not access bushmeat through the market but rather through their social networks with whom they maintain noncommercial flows including immediate exchange and long-term exchange mechanisms. Although bushmeat is no longer consumed as a daily meal among urban and periurban indigenous families, it constitutes what could be called a “festival food,” referring to the use of food to express cultural values and origin. These results highlight the need to differentiate bushmeat trade and noncommercial flows of bushmeat in law enforcement activities. Indeed, although bushmeat trade is banned in all three countries, subsistence use is allowed. Bushmeat consumption contributes to urban subsistence when it is obtained as a gift, and this pattern is increasingly characteristic among mobile and multisited indigenous households in urban Amazon.

Key words

Amazon; bushmeat; exchange networks; indigenous people; trade; urban areas

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087