December 16, 2011
Madagascar Wildlife Facing Threat Of Illegal Hunting
Researchers have found that illegal hunting of protected species in Madagascar could cause an urgent threat to the country's globally important biodiversity.
The scientists said that hunting of protected species in eastern Madagascar is increasing due to rapid social change.
"Our observations suggest that young men have more available cash and leisure time due to the transition from subsistence farming to panning for gold, and they spend more time in local bars, eating fried meat snacks with their drinks," Julie Razafimanahaka from Madagasikara Voakajy, said in a press release.
Appetites for meats have increased, and traditional taboos protecting species like lemurs are becoming less powerful in the country.
"Lemur hunting appears to have increased to supply this new market. The power of the taboo is declining, under pressures of globalization and human mobility," said Razafimanahaka.
Dr. Julia Jones of Bangor University, the study author, said that the country's wildlife is an important asset to Madagascar's future.
"They are worth much more to the economy alive than as meat. I sincerely hope Madagascar is able to tackle this problem," Jones said in a press release.
The team found that people prefer to eat domestic meats like chicken and pork over bushmeat species like lemur, but in some cases they resort to eating wildlife because of the high cost of domestic alternatives.
"Improving access to alternatives would help," Richard Jenkins of Bangor University, one of the authors of the study, said in a press release. "If domestic meats could be farmed more reliably and were therefore cheaper, the pressure on wild species may be reduced. More effort is needed to improve domestic animal husbandry methods and disease control in rainforest areas."
Despite the country's wildlife laws, they can be misunderstood and also go unenforced in many areas.
The researchers worked with the government of Madagascar on an education campaign to help people learn more about the law and to ensure they understand how vulnerable the lemurs are to hunting.
The research was published in the December 14 issue of PLoS ONE.
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