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Wild mammals as economic goods and implications for their conservation

Lukas Boesch, Universität Leipzig, Institut für Soziologie, Leipzig, Germany
Roger Mundry, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Hjalmar S. Kühl, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Leipzig, Germany; German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
Roger Berger, Universität Leipzig, Institut für Soziologie, Leipzig, Germany


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In social-ecological systems, human activities and animal distribution are interrelated. Any effort at studying wildlife abundance therefore requires the integration of detailed socioeconomic context into species distribution models. Wild mammals have always been an important resource for humankind, and concepts of economic goods provide an analytical framework to deduce relevant socioeconomic factors that shape wild mammal–human relationships and consequences for the spatial distribution patterns of wild mammals. We estimated the effects of the human population on wild mammals in a rural area in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. We related large mammal survey data via statistical models to detailed socioeconomic information about the human population in the same area. We compared models, taking account of the human population in different ways, and found that wild mammal abundance was better explained by human factors other than human population density. Although human population density had a negative effect on wild mammals, the effect of market integration and food taboos were more important and not accounted for by human population density alone. Additionally, the analysis did not provide evidence of higher mammal abundance in classified forests, which one would assume if conservation interventions aimed at reducing hunting were implemented. Beyond doubt, the relationship between humans and wild mammals is highly complex and species- and context-specific. To understand mammal–human relationships in the wider context of social-ecological systems, an in-depth knowledge of the socioeconomic characteristics of a human population is needed to identify crucial links and driving mechanisms.

Key words

economic good; human influence; mammal abundance; Republic of Guinea, West Africa

Copyright © 2017 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