Bringing hunting into the light

CIFOR works with hunters in Colombia to support sustainable hunting and trade in bushmeat

In Colombia – as in many countries – bushmeat is an important source of food for indigenous and rural communities. Not only providing the basis for traditional dishes, bushmeat can be important for food security and nutrition. And while hunting for family consumption at a subsistence level is permitted, a hunter who sells meat is breaking the law. It doesn’t stop the trade – people need income to pay for food, schools and medical care. But it creates an underground hunting culture that is difficult to monitor and manage, leaving wildlife populations essentially unprotected.

With the help of CIFOR scientists and Colombia’s Fundación Sí, hunters in Colombia are trying to bring the bushmeat trade into the light. A first step in sustainably managing wildlife populations is to monitor the level of harvest. An innovative phone app, developed by CIFOR team member François Sandrin, is one way for hunters to collectively record, collate and analyse hunting data, and to understand changing wildlife population levels.

“We are interested in knowing how many animals there are in our territory. People say we hunters are killing off all the animals, but that’s not true.”

Persuading the government to trust hunters and change the law on the sale of bushmeat requires a different approach. In October 2015, hunters, conservation organisations and government officials gathered at a workshop in the Amazonia town of Leticia, near the border between Colombia, Brazil and Peru, to discuss how the law could enable hunters to manage, hunt and sell bushmeat. The hunters themselves proposed guidance for carrying out environmental impact studies of hunting, as well as methods to monitor and estimate wildlife population levels.

estimated rural consumption of bushmeat in the Amazon
traded and hunted in Colombia
estimated annual trade in bushmeat in five Amazonian trifrontier towns