Bioacoustic Monitoring in KNP Reveals Alarming Hunting Intensity
Analysis of acoustic data from the Southern Sector of Korup National Park (KNP) from June 2013 to May 2015 indicates a high level of gun hunting intensity in the area. This analysis has been done within the context of the Darwin Initiative Project “Improving anti-poaching patrol evaluation and design in African Rainforests” on current intensity and patterns of gun hunting in the Southern Sector of KNP. PSMNR-SWR is a partner in the project and co-financed hunter and household surveys.read more
Through the use of novel acoustic monitoring techniques gun hunting was recorded for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. A total of 12 Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) were deployed in a grid covering an area of 54km. The ARUs digitally store forest sounds on memory cards which are replaced along with batteries every three months by trained field teams.
Parallel, the Darwin Initiative partnership undertook hunter surveys in three villages in the periphery of the study area so as to obtain additional information that could help interpret better the acoustic sensors.
Findings from acoustic data reveal a minimum of 1,954 gunshots in year 1 and 2,050 gunshots in year 2, which after counting the total survey effort of each year shows a 13% increase in gunshot hunting intensity between the two years in the 54 km2 survey area. For illustration: applying the success rate of 75% known from the hunter survey and with a theoretical assumption that poaching intensity is the same all over the park this would mean that over 35,000 animals would have been killed in the park only with guns.
Acoustic data did not provide details on what is being hunted. However, analysis of one year hunter survey data showed that duikers 39.2%, rodents 26%, primates 10.6% and pangolins 3.9% constitute the top hunted species including various birds, small mammals and reptiles.
The acoustic monitoring data also provided information on the spatial and temporal gun hunting patterns. The analysis of gunshot timings show that most of the hunting takes place at night. The data equally revealed a clear weekly pattern of hunting activity from Monday to Wednesday, declining by weekends when local food markets are opened.
In the months ahead, cyber tracker patrol data recorded by KNP eco-guards will also be used to analyse the effect of increased anti-poaching patrol efforts on gun hunting.
The information provided by the acoustic sensors can greatly empower patrols, and indeed the information was used by the park management to deploy targeted missions during the high hunting period of November 2015 – January 2016.
The researchers have thus recommended that the Darwin Initiative project lessons be used to create the momentum needed for the expansion of the acoustic monitoring protocol in other parts of KNP as well as other protected areas, and ultimately its inclusion in the management plans of all protected areas in Cameroon.