Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Imperiled Riches—Threatened Rainforests
Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus)
Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus). Hornbills are important seed dispersers in many forests yet they are often targeted by hunters. Click image for more photos of hornbills. (Photo by R. Butler)

HUNTING/POACHING

By Rhett Butler   |  Last updated July 27, 2012

Humans have long hunted wild game from forests, but over the past 50 years commercialization of killing has triggered a rapid increase in wildlife depletion. Hunting and poaching cause damage to the rainforest ecosystem by removing species key to the system's functioning. The loss of a certain single species can mean extinction for many others.

Hunting of seed dispersers and pollinators can influence the structure of a forest. According to research from Central Africa, heavy bushmeat hunting alters forest composition by favoring small-seeded trees over large-seeded, leading to lower tree diversity of trees that have big seeds.

number of animals killed regionally for the bushmeat trade: africa, asia, and the amazon
    Average wildlife harvesting rates of large mammals (>1 kilogram adult body mass) in tropical forests are about 6.0 animals per square kilometer per year in Southeast Asia (2 studies), 17.5 animals in Africa (2 studies), and 8.1 animals in Latin America (5 studies) according to data derived from J. Robinson and E. Bennett, Eds., Hunting for Sustainability in Tropical Forests (Columbia University Press, New York, 1999). Chart and photo of a young gorilla in Gabon by Rhett A. Butler.

    estimated global scale of the wildlife bushmeat trade--the number of animals killed annually for the bushmeat trade: africa, asia, and the amazon

    These rough estimates, showing that millions of animals are killed each year in Africa, Asia, and the Amazon for subsistence hunting and the bushmeat trade, are extrapolated from J. Robinson and E. Bennett (1999) data, forest cover figures from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization for 2005, and numbers in J. Robinson and K. Redford, Eds., Neotropical Wildlife Use and Conservation (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1991);. The numbers include mammals, birds, and reptiles. Estimation, chart and photo of a red howler monkey in Colombia by Rhett A. Butler. Please note that these are only rudimentary estimates -- there are presently no reliable projections for the number of animals hunted each year.
The wildlife harvest takes a staggering number of animals: every year in the Brazilian Amazon alone, where 9.6 to 23.5 million mammals, birds, and reptiles are harvested. The annual harvest in the tropical forests of Africa may be 6-12 times that amount, since illegal poaching in Africa is rampant to provide meat for poor rural and urban dwellers.

In Asia, tiger populations have been dramatically reduced due to widespread habitat loss and Chinese demand for traditional medicinal products made from tiger parts. Endangered Sumatran elephants are increasingly poached for their ivory and could go extinct within 50 years at present hunting rates. In Indonesia, where there is a thriving black market for endangered wildlife, orangutans are suffering from both habitat loss and the illegal trapping of baby orangutans for the pet trade. Typically, mother orangutans are killed since they refuse to abandon their young.

In Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Madagascar, and other countries, the collection of wild animals for the pet trade takes its toll on local animal populations. Although such collection can be done in a sustainable manner, it rarely is. Reptiles are the fourth biggest commodity after drugs, diamonds, and weapons in the world smuggling trade, but losses are quite high: less than 10 percent of all animals exported illegally make it alive to their final destination—usually a small, dirty terrarium.


    Related articles >>



INTRODUCTION OF ALIEN SPECIES


While not directly responsible for deforestation, the introduction of foreign plants and animals can cause severe damage to rainforests, especially in delicate ecosystems like islands. These feral species bring new diseases and compete with local species.

The bird life of Guam and Hawaii has suffered from the introduction of alien species [
Invasive species news]. In the case of Guam, the culprit was a snake, while in Hawaii the mosquito and domestic chickens were responsible for the decline of native birds. Since the arrival of the Polynesians, at least 62 endemic bird species have disappeared from Hawaii. It is even more startling that Hawaii has more alien plant species than native ones. Alien weeds can choke out endemic plants, especially under disturbed forest conditions like agricultural clearing.

Additionally, alien species can wipe out endemic keystone species that play an important role in the ecosystem, like pollinating certain tree species. The elimination of such an endemic species can spell the end for the tree species and a host of other dependent plant and animal species.

Climate change is expected to increase the number of alien species in some ecosystems.





Review questions

:
  • Why are tigers endangered?
  • How can alien or invasive species impact the environment?



Continued / Next:

Unsustainable tourism




Other pages in this section:

A World Imperilled
Threats from Humankind
Economic Restructuring
Logging
Fires
Commercial Agriculture
Hydro, Pollution, Hunting
Debt
Consumption, Conclusion
- - - - -
References
References
References
References
References
Natural forces
Subsistence Activities
Oil Extraction
Mining
War
Cattle Pasture
Fuelwood, Roads, Climate
Population & Poverty

- - - - -
Kids version of this section
- Why are rainforests disappearing?
- Logging
- Agriculture
- Cattle
- Roads
- Poverty


Selection of information sources

  • Davis, K. ("Goodall: Illegal Hunting is Biggest Threat to Chimpanzees" A.P. 12/10/97) and McRae, M. ("Road Kill in Cameroon." Natural History. Vol. 107, No. 1, Feb 1997.) provides an overview of the African bushmeat trade.
  • Wildlife harvesting in logged tropical forests is surveyed in Robinson, J.G. et al. "Wildlife harvest in logged tropical forests," Science Vol. 284 (5415): 595, 1999
  • In "Strapped for Cash, Asians Plunder their Forests and Endanger their Future," Effects of the Asian Economic Crisis series, AsiaPacific Issues No. 39, April 1999, Donovan examines the effect of the Asian economic recession on wildlife harvest and concludes that the depressed market conditions spurred an increase in hunting and wildlife collection.
  • Epstein, J. ("For sale: creatures great and small," SF Chronicle 10-7-99) and Saunders, J. ("S.African Police Crack Reptile Smuggling Syndicate," Reuters 10/20/97) explore the illegal pet trade.
  • James, H.F. and S.L. Olson ("Descriptions of thirty-two species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: part II. Passeriformes," Ornithology Monogr. 46:1-88, 1991) note that 62 bird species have gone extinct since the arrival of the Polynesians in the Hawaiian islands.
  • According to Wagner, W.L., Herbst, D.R., Sohmer, S.H., in Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press, 1990, today Hawaii has more alien plant species than native ones.





  • For kids

    Tour: the Amazon

    Rainforest news

    Tour: Indonesia's rainforests

     Home
     What's New
     About
     Rainforests
       Mission
       Introduction
       Characteristics
       Biodiversity
       The Canopy
       Forest Floor
       Forest Waters
       Indigenous People
       Deforestation
       Consequences
       Saving Rainforests
       Amazon
       Borneo
       Congo
       New Guinea
       Sulawesi
       REDD
       Country Profiles
       Statistics
       Works Cited
       For Kids
       For Teachers
       Photos/Images
       Expert Interviews
       Rainforest News
      Forest data
       Global deforestation
       Tropical deforestation
       By country
       Deforestation charts
       Regional forest data
       Deforestation drivers
     XML Feeds
     Pictures
     Books
     Education
     Newsletter
     Contact

    Nature Blog Network



     CONTENTS
    Rainforests
    Tropical Fish
    News
    Madagascar
    Pictures
    Kids' Site
    Languages
    TCS Journal
    About
    Archives
    Topics | RSS
    Newsletter




     Other languages
    Arabic
    Bengali
    Chinese (CN) (expanded)
    Chinese (TW)
    Croatian
    Danish
    Dutch
    Farsi
    French (expanded)
    German (expanded)
    Greek
    Hindi
    Hungarian
    Indonesian
    Italian
    Japanese (expanded)
    Javanese
    Korean
    Malagasy
    Malay
    Marathi
    Norwegian
    Polish
    Portuguese (expanded)
    Russian
    Slovak
    Spanish (expanded)
    Swahili
    Swedish
    Ukrainian



     WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
     Email:


     INTERACT
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Contact
    Help
    Photo store
    Mongabay gear




    Recent news

    Malayan tiger population plunges to just 250-340 individuals
    (09/16/2014) Malaysia is on the edge of losing its tigers, and the world is one step nearer to losing another tiger subspecies: the Malayan tiger. Camera trap surveys from 2010-2013 have estimated that only 250-340 Malayan tigers remain, potentially a halving of the previous estimate of 500 individuals.


    WCS-led raids lead to six arrests near Mozambique’s largest reserve
    (09/12/2014) A joint force of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and government authorities are in the midst of carrying out a series of raids against poachers in Mozambique aimed at halting the illegal killing of elephants in Niassa National Reserve, the country’s largest protected area. Six men, thought to be responsible for killing 39 elephants in 2014, were arrested in an early morning bust in the town of Marrupa, just south of the park.


    'A global tragedy' in the making? Thailand plans highway expansion through World Heritage Site
    (08/29/2014) Dong Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC) is the largest tract of surviving forest in central Thailand, renowned for its biodiversity. Now, the Thai government is planning major expansions to a road that bisects the complex – which scientists say will bar animal movement throughout their natural ranges, result in higher rates of road kill, and give hunters and loggers increased access to the forest.



    More news on poaching


    More rainforest news



    what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

    Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2013

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
    an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region.
    Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.

    "Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.