(NSOMBOU ABALGHE-DZAL PROJECT)
Nsombou means hunting and fishing in the Kota language of northeastern Gabon. Abalghe-Dzal, in Fang, is village management. Our project facilitates the establishment and study of community bushmeat hunting management by Gabonese villages to conserve wildlife and increase food security. Local paraecologists across 20 villages follow an environmental education curriculum, monitor wildlife and bushmeat, and act as community organizers in adaptive hunting management. We aim to increase the sustainability of hunting, contribute to Gabonese policy, and inform similar initiatives across the tropics.
Project logo designed by paraecologist
One of many community management meetings
We conduct social-ecological research assessing the drivers and consequences of bushmeat hunting, and the functioning and effectiveness of community management.
We work with 20 villages near the town of Makokou and Ivindo National Park in northeastern Gabon. The area is one of the most important conservation landscapes in Central Africa, harboring globally significant populations of endangered species including forest elephants, great apes, and pangolins. But burgeoning logging threatens biodiversity and local livelihoods through habitat disturbance and commercial hunting. Now is the time for innovative and inclusive conservation action.
In each village, our paraecologists collect standardized data quantifying bushmeat use and provenance over time. In 10 'experimental' villages, we collaborate with hundreds of hunters who conduct self-follows with automated GPS to collect more nuanced spatial data on hunter behavior and map village hunting zones.
We use a diverse suite of social, economic, and ecological data to model the variation in bushmeat hunting dynamics across the region. We co-analyze all data with villages through customized software adapted for community-wide use.
Paraecologists conducted extensive line transects and camera trapping to quantify patterns in defaunation across village hunting zones. General trends mirror those found in hunted forests across the tropics: small, non-hunted species were encountered more frequently near villages, and large, hunted species farther away. But defaunation is not uniform across villages. Interestingly, several of the key parameters identified in landscape-scale bushmeat studies (e.g., distance to roads or markets) did not detectability influence this variation, motivating our ongoing deeper study of potential drivers. See Beirne et al. 2019 for ecological results, and Nuñez et al. 2019 for a comparison of field methods.
FUNCTIONING & EFFECTIVENESS
OF COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
We model the social-ecological effectiveness of community management by quantifying bushmeat use in ‘experimental’ villages managing hunting versus ‘control’ villages not doing so over time. We further use a suite of social methods to better understand the governance, perceptions, compliance, and limitations of the village management.
Duke members who have contributed in Gabon include: Project Staff Alex Ebang Mbélé and Guillaume Menie Menie, PhD candidates Graden Froese and Amelia Meier, and Masters Students Lea Selby, Nina Hamilton, and Alexis Kovach. Countless other people in Duke, Makokou, and elsewhere, have also contributed. We work in collaboration with the Gabon Parks Agency (ANPN) and the Research Institute for Tropical Ecology (IRET) at the Center for Research and Technology (CENAREST), and are funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Our bottom-up approach to wildlife management facilitates community decision-making through data collected and disseminated by community members working as trained and paid “paraecologists.”
A paraecologist is a ““resident professional with local knowledge who lacks formal academic training,” differentiated from citizen scientists by their level of involvement; “being a paraecologist…is a vocation and entails full-time employment underpinned by extensive training(1).” Project paraecologists include men and women ranging in age from their twenties to sixties.
The use of paraecologists develops community-owned knowledge, directly adapted and applicable to the nuance of their environmental challenges. Further, paraecology enables high-quality social-ecological monitoring on spatial and temporal scales unachievable through traditional methods.
1. Schmiedel U, et al. 2016. Contributions of paraecologists and parataxonomists to research, conservation, and social development. Conservation Biology 30:506–519.
Paraecologists follow a monthly environmental curriculum covering fundamentals of ecology, sustainable natural resource management, and science in action. This is through experiential place-based lessons, where traditional ecological knowledge is substantiated with scientific practices and ecological evidence. Paraecologists share this knowledge with their communities to inform management decision-making.
Our curriculum contains three consecutive modules, each containing a suite of lessons:
Fundamentals of Ecology | Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Ecosystems, Biodiversity, Food Chains & Disturbance, Ecosystem Services
Sustainable Natural Resource Management | Sustainability Theory, Hunting, Logging, Climate Change
Science in Action | Scientific Method, Data Exploration, Figures, Communication, Critical Reflection
We plan to soon adapt our curriculum for high schools in Makokou. We have further provided lessons to the Garoua Wildlife College in Cameroon and are always keen for more collaboration with other initiatives! Please contact us using the form below if you're interested in learning more.
4. COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
Villages we collaborate with that have chosen to manage bushmeat hunting do so based on their own objectives and capacities. The form and functioning of management, conceived and maintained by the communities themselves, varies widely across villages. It usually consists of community-wide meetings to make decisions and the election of a steering committee to oversee them. Decisions are often in the forms of participatory rules and associated sanctions for breaking them.
Examples of rules include:
- Permanently unhunted reserves
- Unhunted zones that rotate over time
- Limits on the numbers of hunts, traps, and animals hunted