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Interpreting long-term trends in bushmeat harvest in southeast Cameroon

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Measuring hunting sustainability across West/Central African forests remains a challenge. Long-term assessment of trends is crucial. Via hunter-reported surveys we collected offtake data in three villages near the Dja Biosphere Reserve (southeast Cameroon). During four months (March–June) in 2003, 2009 and 2016, we gathered information on hunters, prey species and number of carcasses brought to the three settlements. Because it was not possible to record hunter effort i.e. the time a hunter spent pursuing animals or setting traps, to calculate catch per unit effort (CPUE), we used catch per hunter per day (CPHD) to document hunter returns. We then used the changes in the mean body mass indicator (MBMI) throughout the study period to test for defaunation in the three villages. Differences in CPHD and MBMI by month and year, between villages and hunting method, were investigated using Tweedie regression models. For all species pooled, we found that the mean CPHD remained relatively constant between 2003 and 2016. There was an observed shift from traps to firearms during the study period. CPHD for each of the seven most hunted species did not vary significantly during the entire study period, and a similar change from traps to firearms was observed. MBMI also remained stable for all species pooled, but significantly declined in the remotest village. Starting MBMI values for this village were higher than for the other two settlements perhaps because wildlife here is less depleted. Although hunter effort data may be difficult to obtain over long time periods, CPHD and MBMI may be useful tools as a measure of impact of hunters on prey populations.

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