Abstract: Road expansion and associated increases in hunting pressure are a rapidly growing threat to African tropical wildlife. In the rainforests of southern Gabon, we compared abundances of larger (>1 kg) mammal species at varying distances from forest roads and between hunted and unhunted treatments (comparing a 130‐km2 oil concession that was almost entirely protected from hunting with nearby areas outside the concession that had moderate hunting pressure). At each of 12 study sites that were evenly divided between hunted and unhunted areas, we established standardized 1‐km transects at five distances (50, 300, 600, 900, and 1200 m) from an unpaved road, and then repeatedly surveyed mammals during the 2004 dry and wet seasons. Hunting had the greatest impact on duikers (Cephalophus spp.), forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), and red river hogs (Potamochoerus porcus), which declined in abundance outside the oil concession, and lesser effects on lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and carnivores. Roads depressed abundances of duikers, sitatungas (Tragelaphus spekei gratus), and forest elephants (Loxondonta africana cyclotis), with avoidance of roads being stronger outside than inside the concession. Five monkey species showed little response to roads or hunting, whereas some rodents and pangolins increased in abundance outside the concession, possibly in response to greater forest disturbance. Our findings suggest that even moderate hunting pressure can markedly alter the structure of mammal communities in central Africa. Roads had the greatest impacts on large and small ungulates, with the magnitude of road avoidance increasing with local hunting pressure.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 2006
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