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Illegal hunting on the Masoala peninsula of Madagascar: Its extent, causes, and impact on lemurs and humans

Illegal hunting on the Masoala peninsula of Madagascar: Its extent, causes, and impact on lemurs and humans


Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


Two of the greatest challenges we face in the world today are: (1) reducing human poverty and malnutrition; and (2) slowing the loss of global biodiversity. Madagascar ranks nearly last in global food security, and is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Within Madagascar, the Masoala Peninsula is one of our greatest conservation priorities. I use one year (July 2011 – June 2012) of lemur surveys, habitat sampling, direct observations of forest mammal hunting, eleven months of daily 24-hour recall surveys, and interviews of all households in one focal village on the Masoala peninsula of Madagascar to examine the extent of illegal hunting, its causes, and its impact on endangered lemurs and humans. I found that members of 97% of households ate forest mammals in the prior year and 26% of men intentionally trapped lemurs. While this hunting had a greater impact than habitat loss on Eulemur albifrons, habitat loss had a greater impact than trapping on Varecia rubra. There was strong seasonal variation in hunting; lemurs and bushpigs were predominately targeted during the cool, wet austral winter, and carnivorans were targeted during the warm austral summer because of seasonal variation in prey characteristics. Forest animals were caught largely for individual consumption, and were not intended for sale or economic gain. Poverty and health most accurately predicted a man’s decision to engage in illegal lemur trapping. Notably, neither working in ecotourism nor knowledge of hunting laws had an impact on the decision to trap lemurs. These findings support growing evidence that the key to successful lemur conservation may be improving rural human health and welfare. By modeling this dynamic human, lemur, and forest system, I also simulated the futures of lemurs, human, and their shared habitats under different conservation scenarios. This dissertation exemplifies a growing trend in conservation research: rather than focusing strictly on the ecological needs of endangered primate species, researchers are studying the interactions of primates and humans in shared habitat spaces.