Agouti on the wedding menu: bushmeat harvest, consumption and trade in a post-frontier region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The availability, consumption and trade of bushmeat is highly variable across time and space. This paper examines how the bushmeat market in Napo, Ecuador has evolved alongside a variety of interconnected factors including local game scarcity, increased law enforcement, infrastructure development and increasing urbanization. Much of the human occupied landscape has already undergone extinction filters with only the most hunting resistant species still present. However, Napo maintains significant areas of largely intact forest which are not hunted due distance from roads and rough topography, which may serve as source habitat in the future. Two modes of hunting are identified both of which have very different implications for conservationists and for rural livelihoods. Supplemental or sustenance hunting generally focuses on more abundant species and thus occurs primarily within local agroforestry systems or nearby patches of forests. Commercial hunting meanwhile takes place within larger catchments and is focused on large-bodied species, which are especially susceptible to hunting pressure. Efforts by the Ecuadorian government to interdict bushmeat have largely driven the trade underground making it difficult to estimate current consumption rates. Demand generated by traditional Kichwa wedding parties remain a significant driver of commercial hunting. Policy recommendations include a greater focus on species-level game management, greater education about endangered species and more emphasis on using conservation programs to create corridors between protected areas. Due to the relatively small size of most communal forest areas, wildlife management is especially difficult for wide-ranging species and conservation efforts should focus on common pool resource management.