The unsustainable hunting and consumption of primates destabilizes both wildlife populations and the humans who depend upon them. This is especially pertinent in Madagascar—one of the world’s poorest, least food secure, and most biodiverse countries. The people of Kirindy Mitea National Park have faced numerous famines during the prior decade. Although the park is one of Madagascar’s highest conservation priorities, researchers have yet to study the interactions between food insecurity, dietary diversity, and lemur hunting at this location. To address this gap and provide foundational data for primate conservation as well as public health policy, we surveyed forest resource exploitation, nutrition, and food security in a village adjacent to the park (N = 89 households) over 6 months (September 2018 to March 2019). We observed high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Of the study participants, one third had eaten a forest animal during the prior year. Of all taxa, lemurs, tenrecs, and bushpigs were hunted in the greatest numbers. Less food-secure households were more likely to hunt nonthreatened animals, such as tenrecs. Lemurs comprised one third of all wildlife consumed; households ate a mean of five (± SD 11) lemurs during the prior year. Food insecurity significantly increased within-household lemur consumption, especially the Critically Endangered red-tailed sportive lemur (Lepilemur ruficaudatus) and Vulnerable red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufifrons). Our results indicate that Kirindy Mitea is among the most heavily hunted national parks in Madagascar. Given the region’s fragile environment and challenging living conditions for both its primate and human communities, the effects of hunting may be especially severe.
- Kirindy Mitea