Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Gun hunting could lead to extinction of threatened primates on African island

Date:April 18, 2016
Source:Drexel University

Gun hunting may be driving some of the most threatened primates toward extinction on Bioko Island off the coast of Africa, according to a new study by a team led by Drexel University researchers.

The research team found that as evidence of gun hunting increased, the abundance of the seven monkey species found on Bioko Island fell. Four of those species were determined to be especially vulnerable and unable to adapt to hunting.

Featuring scientists from the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, a joint venture between Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences and the National University of Equatorial Guinea, this study -- published in Biological Conservation as "Impact of gun-hunting on monkey species and implications for primate conservation on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea" -- comes on the heels of findings that bushmeat sales in the region markedly increased over the last two decades. Bushmeat is meat hunted from the wild, which can include primates.

"Ecologically, primates are key seed dispersers responsible for the maintenance of Bioko's forests," said Drew Cronin, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Mary Katherine Gonder, Ph.D., the Drexel associate professor serving as director of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program. "In hunted forests, where animals like primates have been hunted out, there have been negative cascading ecological effects and large scale changes to forest structure."

Bioko Island is a part of Equatorial Guinea and lies off the coast of Cameroon in the Gulf of Guinea. A critical site for many endangered species, including primates, the island is considered a biodiversity gem.

"Bioko's monkeys are also a real national treasure: Think of the iconic fauna in the U.S., like the bison or the bald eagle, and the national identity that those species lend to the population," Cronin said. "Bioko's monkeys are its most charismatic species and can be flagships for conservation in the country."

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