Comprehensive research on the effects of hunting on global animal populations have been synthesized- the result proves to be overwhelmingly negative, indicating that hunting is a major driver of biodiversity loss.
Despite the pro-hunting lobbies’ claims about the many positive effects of hunting, these claims are, in fact, false. Most of the time, hunters leverage the lack of comprehensive research by stating that hunting actually helps balance populations and increase biodiversity. There is a compelling notion here- if humans hunt top predators (sharks, wolves, bears etc.), we reduce the pressure on prey, and should increase their populations. However, time and time again this has been disproven. One famous example is how the removal of wolves from Yellowstone Park had a myriad of harmful trophic cascades, including changing the path of the river (source). Once the wolves were reinstated, the park once again restored its natural balance of biodiversity.
Unfortunately, without intensive, worldwide research, it has been difficult to argue the hunting-believers. Researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands provide results a systematic large-scale analysis that suggests hunting exerts significant pressure on all bird and mammal populations in hunted areas. So, next time your pro-hunting comrade begins their “maybe not” tirade, provide them this argument:
Researchers collaborated on a global scale and synthesized 176 studies across the tropics of Central and South America, Africa and Asia. These studies measured species populations within 8-40km from sanctioned hunting entry points, and found an even larger impact than they expected- population declines of 58% and 83% of bird and mammal populations, respectively. The authors note that ‘…thanks to this study, we estimate that only 17 percent of the original mammal abundance and 42 percent of the birds remain in hunted areas.’
Additionally, the study found that commercial hunting (hunting for sport) close to major towns had the largest impact and also that protected areas show decreasing mammal populations. These findings are novel in that they measure population declines of all species, not just targeted species, providing a complete picture of the effects of hunting. Their rigorous statistical analysis allows for confidence in the finding.
With an increasing human population, climate change, and habitat destruction, we must be even more conscientious about human impact on the environment. It seems by just existing, we are throwing thousands of species into extinction. Hunting is a driver of extinction that could be ameliorated through regulation, education and monitoring. This study most importantly sets a framework to begin making changes that protect biodiversity and at-risk species in hunted areas.
Written By: Soleil Grisé, HBSc