By Ariel Mark
24 March 2014
(mongabay.com) – Over the past 25 years, West Africa's primates have been put at risk due to an escalating bushmeat trade compounded with forest loss from expanding human populations. In fact, many endemic primates in the Upper Guinea forests of Liberia and Ivory Coast have been pushed to the verge of extinction. To better understand what’s happening, a recent study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science investigated the bushmeat exchange between these neighboring countries.
Ryan Covey with the University of Oregon and W. Scott McGraw with Ohio State University surveyed the Daobly market in the Ivorian town of Taï along the Cavally River, which serves as a natural border between Liberia and Ivory Coast. The slaughter of wild animals within Ivory Coast's forests is outlawed, yet illegal hunting is still prevalent in the country’s Taï National Park despite the park’s status as a World Heritage Site and the presence of a long-term primate research project. The primate research stations provide some protection, as hunters largely avoid hunting in research areas. While law enforcement is currently inadequate for protecting the entire park, restrictions have pushed hunting pressure into neighboring Liberia, specifically the Konobo District of eastern Liberia.
Composing part of the West African Guinea Forest biodiversity hotspot, Konobo's large intact forest is considered a high conservation priority and home to many endangered primate species including the Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana), West African chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), and western red colobus (Procolobus badius). Wild animals hunted in these forests are imported daily to the Daobly market, attracting customers from across the country including towns from as far away as 354 miles (570 km). The Daobly market—established in 1992—was created in part to alleviate hunting pressure in the Taï National Park, but has pushed hunting across the border. […]
The researchers counted a total of 723 animals including 264 primates that were traded to customers for restaurant or household consumption. The most common of the nine different primate species observed were the lesser spot-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista), categorized as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, and the Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana), considered Vulnerable. With this data, the researchers estimated that approximately 9,464 primates are sold at the Daobly market every year. […]
To understand how this booming bushmeat market may be impacting primates, the researchers estimated the total primate population in the Konobo forest. In all, they estimated that 342,891 primate individuals lived in the 1,460 square kilometer (563.71 square miles) forest area. According to the researchers, under optimal conditions an area that large would contain a primate population of roughly 428,600 individuals. However, with an annual decrease of over 9,000 primates due to the bushmeat trade in addition to an estimated 20 percent general population reduction over the last few decades, primates in the Konobo District are vanishing at a rate of nearly three percent every year. Moreover, the researchers believe they may be underestimating the decline due to limitations in their research. [more]
ABSTRACT: According to the IUCN , four of the nine anthropoid species found in Liberia are classified as either Vulnerable or Endangered and this number is likely to rise in coming years due to an increase in bushmeat hunting and a growing human population. Bushmeat hunting is the primary cause of primate loss in West Africa and current estimated offtake rates combined with habitat loss have placed four taxa endemic to Upper Guinea forests in danger of extirpation. We surveyed one bushmeat market located on the Liberia – Ivory Coast border to assess the general impact of hunting in one area of Liberia. This market, located near the Ivorian town of Taї, receives meat daily from the Konobo District of eastern Liberia. We visited the market eight times over a four month period in 2009/2010, during which we counted 723 animals including 264 primates. According to our surveys of the market, Cercopithecus petaurista (Lesser spot-nosed monkey) [25% of all primates] was the most abundant primate, followed by Cercopithecus diana (Diana monkey) [19.3%], Cercocebus atys (Sooty mangabey) [12.1%], Colobus polykomos (King colobus) [11.4%], Procolobus verus (Olive colobus) [10.6%], Cercopithecus campbelli(Campbelli monkey) [10.2%], and Procolobus badius (Western red colobus) [9.5%]. We estimate an average of thirty-three primates were exchanged each day we visited and that a minimum of 9,500 primates are traded annually at this locale (6,900 during formal market days and 2,600 on non-market days). Based on an estimated offtake rate of 2.76%, our preliminary analysis suggests that primates in Liberia’s Konobo District are likely being hunted at rates approaching unsustainable levels and are in danger of extirpation.