Bushmeat hunting in African Savannas: large gaps in knowledge remain​

by Julia Van Velden 

In our new paper, recently published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, we sought to answer a number of questions: what do we currently know about bushmeat hunting in Africa in regions outside of forests? Where has this research been done? What interventions to reduce bushmeat hunting have been studied? And, most importantly, what factors influence this practice? We reviewed all published articles, classified them, and extracted the data they presented.

What we found was surprising. Although the number of studies on bushmeat in savannas has increased over time, especially in recent decades, the majority of studies were conducted in Tanzania, with little attention given to much of southern Africa and the Sahel (the region immediately south of the Sahara Desert). We also found that the majority of studies took place in or near protected areas (70% of studies). There was little information on the hunting of bushmeat in multi-use landscapes such as agricultural lands. Another gap is urban areas, which represent a large, and potentially expanding, source of demand. This demand can spread to African diaspora communities, such as in France.  The source of international exports is ultimately large African cities, thus understanding demand and trade from these areas is a key gap.





Count of studies in each savanna country.


The review also indicated that research into interventions used to reduce bushmeat hunting or consumption is heavily focused on traditional enforcement methods, such as the effect of rangers, fences and patrols. There is an urgent need to understand how other interventions affect bushmeat, such as the provision of alternative income or protein sources. We found, that although many studies recommend these types of projects, very few studies have examined if they work, how they work and why they work.


The need for further research into bushmeat hunting, consumption and trade is now growing urgent, as protected areas face the situation of having to manage for something with very little appropriate local research. We therefore would advocate for increased attention and resources in savannas, to handle this growing global threat.

Further information about our results can be found on my blog. 

Details about the paper can be found on our publications page.