Bushmeat Research Programme

The Bushmeat Research Programme at the Institute of Zoology is involved in research to enhance our understanding of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa.

Bushmeat is the meat of wild animals hunted by local people for income or subsistence in West and Central Africa. The harvest of wild meat is a focus of global concern. Unsustainable levels of hunting are believed to threaten the survival of many target species around the world, particularly in the Tropics. These extinctions will not only threaten ecosystem services but are also likely to seriously impact upon the food security and livelihoods of those people who use this resource. There is therefore an urgent need to develop successful initiatives that will promote the long-term sustainability of the bushmeat harvest - both to protect threatened biodiversity and to secure the trade’s social and economic values.

The Bushmeat Research Programme at the Institute of Zoology is involved in research to enhance our understanding of the bushmeat trade in West and Central Africa. A better understanding of the trade will assist both policy makers and project managers to develop effective methods of regulation and management for sustainability. This work is interdisciplinary in its design: it tackles the biological, economic and social aspects of the trade, using a variety of approaches including field research and mathematical modelling.

There are a range of projects in the Programme, which are described here. This work encompasses several countries in the region (including Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone), and involves collaboration with a variety of institutions in both the host countries and in the UK. Our UK collaborators include colleagues at Cambridge University, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (Oxford University). This work has received funding from several sources including Conservation International, the Darwin Initiative, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The Bushmeat Research Programme is one component of ZSL’s overall bushmeat work. Through a combination of field projects, applied research, policy work, and education activities, this programme aims to protect habitats and wildlife through the management of the bushmeat trade to achieve long-term sustainability.


Bioeconomic modelling of bushmeat harvesting systems

This project aims to develop a general model of a bushmeat harvesting system that combines field data with a mathematical model to simulate bushmeat hunting patterns. The model is built on simple, proven principles that realistically describe the behaviour of hunters and the population dynamics of their prey in a multispecies community. Since the model predicts how different cost-benefit conditions for hunters can determine their hunting behaviour, and therefore the dynamics of prey populations, it can be used to explore the effects of future policy and management on long-term patterns of hunter profit, species offtake and sustainability.

Research Papers:

Rowcliffe JM, de Merode E & Cowlishaw G (2004) Do wildlife laws work? Species protection and the application of a prey choice model to poaching decisions. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 271: 2631-2636.

Rowcliffe JM, Cowlishaw G & Long J (2003) A model of human hunting impacts in multi-prey communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 40: 872-889.

Trade and sustainability along a bushmeat commodity chain (Ghana)

This project aims to describe the social and economic processes that drive the bushmeat commodity chain from harvesting to market sales. This work focuses primarily on market traders, but also encompasses detailed analyses on farmer hunters, commercial hunters, wholesalers and chop bars, and the different relationships between these actors. The commodity chain under study supplies the coastal city of Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city.

Research Papers:

  • Cowlishaw, G., Mendelson, S., & Rowcliffe, J.M. (2007) Livelihoods and sustainability in a bushmeat commodity chain in Ghana. In Bushmeat and Livelihoods: Wildlife Management and Poverty Reduction (eds G. Davies & D. Brown), pp. 32-46. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
  • Cowlishaw G, Mendelson S & Rowcliffe JM (2005) Evidence for post-depletion sustainability in a mature bushmeat market. Journal of Applied Ecology 42: 460-468.
  • Cowlishaw G, Mendelson S & Rowcliffe JM (2005) Structure and operation of a bushmeat commodity chain in Southwestern Ghana. Conservation Biology 19: 139-149.
  • Mendelson S, Cowlishaw G & Rowcliffe JM (2003) Anatomy of a bushmeat commodity chain in Takoradi, Ghana. The Journal of Peasant Studies 31: 73-100.

Policy Papers:

  • Cowlishaw G, Mendelson S & Rowcliffe JM (2005) Management of the bushmeat trade in Ghana. id21 Research Highlights, no. 2, 1.
  • Cowlishaw G, Mendelson S & Rowcliffe JM (2004) The bushmeat commodity chain: patterns of trade and sustainability in a mature urban market in West Africa. Overseas Development Institute Wildlife Policy Briefing series, no. 7.
  • CIFOR Center for International Forestry Research: Have your animals and eat them too. 2 May 2006.
  • Id21 Communicating Development and Research: Management of the bushmeat trade in Ghana. 21 July 2005.

Park protection, armed conflict and the bushmeat trade (Democratic Republic of Congo)

This study investigates patterns of prey availability, hunter offtake, household bushmeat consumption/sales and market dynamics, in and around Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. It presents a detailed picture of the long-term dynamics of a bushmeat harvesting system around a protected area. In addition, this study also illustrates both the relative efficacy of protected area management and the potential impacts of military conflict on local bushmeat harvesting systems.

Research Papers:

  • de Merode E, Hillman-Smith K, Homewood K, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Cowlishaw G (2007) The impact of armed conflict on protected area efficacy in Central Africa. Biology Letters 3: 299-301.
  • de Merode E & Cowlishaw G (2006) Species protection, the changing informal economy, and the politics of access to the bushmeat trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conservation Biology 20: 1262-1271.
  • de Merode E (2005) Protected areas and decentralisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a case for devolving responsibility to local institutions. In: K. Homewood (ed) Rural resources and local livelihoods in Africa, pp. 36-58. James Currey Publishers, London.
  • de Merode E, Homewood K & Cowlishaw G (2004) The value of bushmeat and other wild foods to rural households living in extreme poverty in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Biological Conservation 118: 573- 581.
  • Rowcliffe JM, de Merode E & Cowlishaw G (2004) Do wildlife laws work? Species protection and the application of a prey choice model to poaching decisions. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 271: 2631-2636.

Policy Papers:

  • de Merode E, Homewood K & Cowlishaw G (2003) Wild resources and livelihoods of poor households in Democratic Republic of Congo. Overseas Development Institute Wildlife Policy Briefing series, no. 1.

Incentives for the sustainable hunting of bushmeat (Equatorial Guinea)

Hunters are the crucial link between bushmeat supply and demand. This study follows an entire bushmeat supply chain in Equatorial Guinea, from forest to market, with a focus on hunter incentives. It considers the causes (consumer demand) and effects (changes in prey populations) of hunting, and how this affects hunter behaviour and decision-making, both in terms of livelihood options and prey choice. Fieldwork was undertaken in and around Monte Alén National Park, the village of Sendje, and the city of Bata.

Research Papers:

  • Gill, D., Fa, J.E., Rowcliffe, J.M. & Kümpel, N.F. (2012) Drivers of change in hunter offtake and hunting strategies in Sendje, Equatorial Guinea. Conservation Biology 26: 1052-60.
  • Kümpel NF, Milner-Gulland EJ, Cowlishaw G & Rowcliffe JM (2010a) Incentives for hunting: the role of bushmeat in the household economy in rural Equatorial Guinea. Human Ecology 38: 251-264.
  • Kümpel NF, Milner-Gulland EJ, Cowlishaw G & Rowcliffe JM (2010b) Assessing sustainability at multiple scales in a rotational bushmeat hunting system. Conservation Biology 24: 861-871.
  • Kümpel, N.F., Rowcliffe, J.M., Cowlishaw, G., & Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2009) Trapper profiles and strategies: insights into sustainability from hunter behaviour. Animal Conservation, 12, 531-539.
  • Kümpel, N.F., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Rowcliffe, J.M., & Cowlishaw, G. (2008) Impact of gun-hunting on diurnal primates in continental Equatorial Guinea. International Journal of Primatology, 29, 1065–1082.
  • Kümpel, N.F., East, T., Keylock, N., Rowcliffe, J.M., Cowlishaw, G., & Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2007) Determinants of bushmeat consumption and trade in Rio Muni, Equatorial Guinea: an urban-rural comparison. In Bushmeat and Livelihoods: Wildlife Management and Poverty Reduction (eds G. Davies & D. Brown), pp. 73-91. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
  • East, T, Kümpel, NF, Milner-Gulland, EJ, & Rowcliffe, JM (2005) Determinants of urban bushmeat consumption in Río Muni, Equatorial Guinea. Biological Conservation 126: 206-215.

Poverty, sustainable livelihoods, and the bushmeat trade (Equatorial Guinea)

A detailed study of the role of bushmeat in the diets and livelihoods of contrasting communities in Río Muni, using the contrasts to understand how patterns of bushmeat use and sustainability are likely to change with predicted patterns of economic development.

Research Papers:

  • Allebone-Webb, S.M., Kümpel, N.F., Rist, J., Cowlishaw, G., Rowcliffe, J.M., & Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2011) The use of market data to assess bushmeat hunting sustainability in Equatorial Guinea. Conservation Biology 25: 597-606.
  • Allebone-Webb, S.M. (2008) Evaluating dependence on wild foods in continental Equatorial Guinea. PhD thesis, Imperial College London and Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. Available online at www.zsl.org/equatorialguinea.

Policy papers:

  • Allebone-Webb, S., Rowcliffe, J.M., & Cowlishaw, G. (2009) Wildlife products and forest livelihoods. id21 Rept. No. 77. University of Sussex, Brighton UK

Simple indices of hunter effort and sustainability (Equatorial Guinea)

This project looks at hunter decision making and the impacts of hunting on prey populations, in particular investigating the spatial dynamics of bushmeat hunting and the development of simple tools that might allow these impacts to be assessed indirectly without the need for difficult and expensive population monitoring.

  • Rist J, Milner-Gulland EJ, Cowlishaw G & Rowcliffe JM (2010) Hunter reporting of catch per unit effort as a monitoring tool in a bushmeat harvesting system. Conservation Biology 24: 489-499.
  • Rist J, Milner-Gulland EJ, Cowlishaw G, & Rowcliffe JM (2009) The importance of hunting and habitat in determining the abundance of tropical forest species. Biotropica 41: 700-710.
  • Rist J, Rowcliffe JM, Cowlishaw G, & Milner-Gulland EJ (2008) Evaluating measures of hunting effort in a bushmeat hunting system. Biological Conservation 141: 2086-99.

Solutions to bushmeat exploitation in the Sanaga-Cross region (Cameroon-Nigeria)

This project adopts a spatially-explicit approach to study bushmeat supply and demand in the Sanaga-Cross region of Nigeria and Cameroon. By incorporating species biology and landscape ecology with household nutrition and market surveys, this work will develop a comprehensive understanding of the large-scale patterns and processes involved in the bushmeat trade.

Research Papers:

  • Fa JE, Seymour S, Dupain J, Amin R, Albrechtsen L & Macdonald D (2006) Getting to grips with the magnitude of exploitation: bushmeat in the Cross-Sanaga rivers region, Nigeria and Cameroon. Biological Conservation 129: 497-510.

Habitat quality and bushmeat surveys (Sierra Leone)

This research builds on detailed ecological studies in the Gola Forest Reserves, where the population densities of antelopes and primates were examined in unlogged and logged forests, cacao plantations and farmbush fallows, in which hunting pressure differed. A complementary set of data were gathered through hunter surveys on the edge of the forest reserve, and with market surveys in the nearest large town: Kenema. By combining these datasets, it has been possible to look at patterns of bushmeat trade and mammal depletion.

Research Papers:

  • Davies, G., Schülte-Herbrüggen, B., Kümpel, N.F., & Mendelson, S. (2007) Hunting and trapping in Gola Forest, southeastern Sierra Leone: bushmeat from farm, fallow and forest. In Bushmeat and Livelihoods: Wildlife Management and Poverty Reduction (eds G. Davies & D. Brown). Blackwell, Oxford.

Bushmeat, poverty and rural livelihoods (Ghana)

This project aims to understand the role of bushmeat in the economy of rural Ghana, from an anthropological and development perspective, focussing on a cocoa-growing community in a forested part of the Western Region.

Research Papers:

  • Schulte-Herbruggen B, Rowcliffe MJ, Homewood K, Kurpiers LA, Whitham C, Cowlishaw G. (2013) Wildlife depletion in a West-African farm-forest mosaic and the implications for hunting across the landscape. Human Ecology [early online]
  • Schulte-Herbruggen B, Homewood K, Cowlishaw G, Rowcliffe MJ. (2013) The importance of bushmeat in the livelihoods of West African cash-crop farmers living in a faunally-depleted landscape. PLoS One 8: e72807

Fruit bats as bushmeat (Ghana)

Fruit bats are widely eaten, and yet surveys of mainstream bushmeat trade chains rarely feature these species. This set of projects aims to focus on the separate commodity chains by which bats are traded and consumed in key parts of West and Central Africa, currently beginning in Ghana and the Gulf of Guinea islands.

Research Papers:

  • Kamins AO, Restif O, Ntiamoa-Baidu Y, Suu-Ire R, Hayman DT, Cunningham AA, Wood JL, Rowcliffe JM.(2011). Uncovering the fruit bat bushmeat commodity chain and the true extent of fruit bat hunting in Ghana, West Africa. Biological Conservation 144: 3000-3008.

Monitoring international bushmeat trade – imports to Europe

While there is anecdotal evidence for substantial trade in bushmeat in Europe, we know very little about the scale and operation of this trade. This project aims to address this information gap through rigorous surveys of illegal imports at airports and surveys of traders in European cities. This study is ongoing.

Research Papers:

  • Chaber, A.L., Allebone-Webb, S., Lignereux, Y., Cunningham, A.A., & Rowcliffe, J.M. (2010) The scale of illegal meat importation from Africa to Europe via Paris. Conservation Letters 3: 317-321.

Species vulnerability to bushmeat hunting

Susceptability to hunting pressure can vary dramatically between different species. This study explores these patterns of variation, and the mechanisms that might underpin such variation, in primates. It also investigates how the same taxa respond to other anthropogenic threats, namely selective logging and shifting cultivation.

Research Papers:

  • Isaac NJB & Cowlishaw G (2004) How species respond to multiple extinction threats. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 271: 1135-1141.

Large-scale economic and environmental drivers of bushmeat trade (Ghana)

This study is analysing a 30 year dataset of bushmeat market flows in Kumasi in combination with data on climate and vegetation cover, and social research on household decision-making. The goal is to understand the large-scale forces driving unsustainable hunting in Ghana in order to guide policy response. This study is ongoing.

Roads and bushmeat trade in Gabon

Roads are a key factor in the bushmeat trade through their provision of access to markets. This study is examining in detail how this facilitation of trade operates in Gabon, focusing on how both the creation and deterioration of roads influence trade and livelihoods. This study is ongoing.

Bushmeat- palm civet


Bushmeat - Palm Civet