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Understanding wild meat consumption, trade and sustainability in the Amazon

El Bizri, H. R. (2021) Understanding wild meat consumption, trade and sustainability in the Amazon. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The meat from wild animals, or wild meat, is critical to the survival of rural and Indigenous people worldwide. Typically, these communities live in remote places where access to domestic meats is limited. Unregulated wild meat extraction alongside the increasing demand by urban residents can impact game species populations. In the Amazon, limited information is available on the drivers of wild meat use and trade in rural and urban areas. Knowledge of life-history parameters of Amazonian game species, useful for determining their resilience to hunting, is also lacking. In this thesis I: 1) investigate patterns and drivers of wild meat consumption and trade in the Amazon, and 2) present new data on lifehistory parameters of a widely hunted species, the lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), and advance ways of gathering such data from the wild. In the first part of the thesis, I study the consumption of wild meat by rural and urban households in Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil. I demonstrate that the number of hunters living in rural households determines the rates of consumption and the probability of trading wild meat. I show that flavour of certain species increases their consumption rates, and body mass of the species determines its trade price. I also model the relationship between wild meat use and a selection of important socioeconomic indices in five cities in the Brazilian Amazon. I use the results of this model to scale up to all of 62 main urban settlements in Amazonas. This is the first large-scale estimation of wild meat amounts consumed and traded across the entire Brazilian Amazon. I found that the frequency of wild meat consumption in these cities was positively correlated with the proportion of rural population and with the per capita gross domestic product of the municipality. I estimate 10,691 tonnes of wild meat consumed annually in central Amazonia, 6.49 kg per person per year, and US$21.72 per person or US$35.1 million annual overall in terms of trade. In the second part of my thesis, I investigate the reproductive parameters of the lowland paca from data collected using community-based hunting monitoring and collection of biological materials. I used information gathered over 17 years in a site in Brazil and another in Peru. I found that lowland pacas reproduce seasonally. Moreover, the period of the year when more pregnant females were found overlaps with the period of higher hunting rates, which may likely affect populations of the species. I also found that the species reaches maturity at 4 months of age, at least 3 months earlier than previously reported in the literature. No signs of senescence in the species was detected. I then tested the efficacy of local people in diagnosing pregnancy in hunted female lowland pacas, and used these results to correct hunted specimens’ reproductive status data, voluntarily collected by hunters as part of a citizen science project. I show that local people correctly diagnosed pregnancy in 72.5% and 88.2% of tests before and after training, respectively. Monthly pregnancy rates determined by hunters and by researchers were similar. Reported annual pregnancy rates were negatively correlated with the productivity of hunting events, and positively associated with the percentage of immatures in the hunted population. This demonstrates that the voluntary diagnosis of game species’ reproductive status by local people is a feasible method to obtain accurate life-history parameters. The information presented in this thesis can help ascertain sustainability of wild meat use in Amazonia.

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