Carvalho, M., Rego, F. Palmeirim, J. & Fa. J.E. (2015) Wild meat consumption on São Tomé Island, West Africa: implications for conservation and local livelihoods.Ecology and Society, 20(3), 27. DOI:10.5751/ES-07831-200327 (IF2015 2,890; Q2 Ecology)
The importance of wild meats for rural people is well documented in tropical forests worldwide. However, the case of oceanic islands remains relatively poorly studied. We assess the contribution made by wild meats to the diets of rural inhabitants in the Island of São Tomé, characterize the relative importance of native and introduced fauna, and discuss the implications of wild meat consumption on rural livelihoods and on the conservation of the resident fauna. Using semistructured interviews, we assessed animal protein consumption in 10 communities (716 household-weeks), around the vicinity of the island’s main protected area, Obô Natural Park. Fish and the introduced West African giant snail (Archachatina marginata) are the most important sources of protein for rural inhabitants, with wild terrestrial vertebrates being consumed by only a small fraction of sampled households. Significantly higher amounts of wild snail and wild mammal meat are consumed in more remote areas with poorer families depending more on snails, and richer households on fruit bats or introduced mammals. Although eaten in relatively small numbers per household, consumption of wild birds is widespread, thus when extrapolated to the island’s entire rural population, this practice is likely to be unsustainable, particularly for endemic pigeons that are also commercially hunted. Our results suggest that rural populations in São Tomé largely depend on protein from introduced wild species, with native and endemic fauna constituting less important sources. However, endemic birds and native fruit bats are extensively harvested for household consumption and constitute a commonly used resource that urgently needs to be regulated.