In many parts of the humid tropics, hunting by humans is a more immediate threat to the survival of relatively large-bodied mammals than habitat alteration. In the west and central African forest zone, subsistence hunting is increasingly supplemented by hunting for cash income. Commercial hunting can relatively quickly deplete populations of large-bodied, slow-reproducing game species, such as anthropoid primates, which are typically among the most commonly captured prey in the African forest zone. This dissertation assesses the impact of hunting on primate community structure and investigates how anthropoid primate species differ in their vulnerability to hunting. I conducted this research in and around Korup National Park (KNP), Cameroon. KNP is home to eight anthropoid primate species, three of which are listed as Endangered by the World Conservation Union's Red List. Using line transect surveys, I estimated primate abundance in three areas of KNP that varied in degree of hunting intensity. I also enumerated primate species in hunter harvests and bushmeat markets. To estimate hunting impact, I compared primate abundance between areas that differed in hunting intensity and examined changes in primate abundance through time by comparing my results to historical data sets. I also relied on historical data sets to examine changes in primate relative abundance in hunter harvests through time. Total primate abundance did not significantly differ between survey sites, despite inter-site variation in hunting pressure. However, differences among survey sites in the richness and relative abundance of primate species were found. All of the methods I used to assess hunting impact suggest that vulnerability to hunting varies among the Korup primates. In the most heavily hunted survey site, only the three most resilient species (Cercopithecus nictitans, Cercopithecus mona, and Cercopithecus erythrotis ) remain and occur at relatively high densities. Through time, as the abundance of the more vulnerable species (e.g., Cercopithecus pogonias, Procolobus pennantii, and Mandrillus leucophaeus ) has declined in the most heavily hunted areas, the density of the more resilient species has increased, possibly due to a reduction in competition for resources. In the absence of effective conservation efforts, and if current hunting trends continue, the most resilient species will eventually come to dominate the primate community throughout KNP and the most vulnerable species will trend to extinction. This study is one of the first in the African forest zone to show how intense hunting alters primate community structure. In the short term, KNP management should strengthen anti-poaching patrols and promote biological research in the southern section of the park, where hunting intensity is relatively low and all eight primate species have been observed. From a broader perspective, my study shows that the presence of human settlements inside protected areas threatens conservation efforts to safeguard large-bodied mammals in the African forest zone.
|Adviser||John F. Oates|
|School||CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK|
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