Lab offers perspective on bushmeat hunting for Science

By Kaitlyn Gaynor, PhD Candidate

A child carries a basket containing a Gambian rat and a monkey in Lomela, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The harvest, consumption, and trade of wild meat is central to people’s livelihoods in many countries, yet is also responsible for widespread animal population declines. Photo credit: Lynn Johnson, National Geographic Creative.

In a recent paper in Science, Benítez-López and colleagues synthesize data from around the tropics to distill the impacts of bushmeat hunting into a striking figure: bird and mammal populations decline by 58% and 83% (respectively) as a result of hunting. But what does this number mean for wild animals, their ecosystems, and the human populations that rely on their meat?

As an interdisciplinary research group, we in the Brashares lab embrace and explore the complexity of social-ecological dynamics. Bushmeat hunting and consumption are at the center of a coupled human-natural system in which the health and security of people and ecosystems are tightly linked.

In an accompanying perspective piece in Science, Justin and I bring this interdisciplinary lens to the Benítez-López study to unpack some of the history, drivers, and consequences of hunting and associated defaunation.