Illegal Hunting: A Bigger Threat To Wildlife Than Forest Degradation In Southeast Asia

Threats to wildlife and their natural habitats are aplenty these days, further adding up to the problem that climate change is continuously imparting on the world. And now, a new study made by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature Vietnam (WWF-Vietnam) and the Sabah Forestry Department of the Government of Malaysia revealed that illegal hunting poses a bigger threat to endangered species and wildlife in general, more than forest degradation does.

Published in the journal Communications Biology, the study utilized a large scale camera-trapping study to compare a number of forest areas located in protected areas in the Annamites ecoregion of Vietnam, Malaysian Borneo and Laos. From this study, they were able to observe that snared forests have more severe wildlife loss than those that are usually logged.

Per the researchers, this is the first time that habitat degradation and unsustainable hunting are compared to find out how severe their effects are in terms of mammal and bird biodiversity loss. For the longest time, it’s common knowledge that both illegal hunting and logging negatively affects animals and their communities in the first. However, the study shows that unsustainable hunting have a more severe effect. For example, sites like the Laos and the Annamites ecoregion of Vietnam have more species that are lost as compared to Borneo, where illegal logging is widespread.

"These findings are not only interesting from an academic perspective, they also have implications for  conservation work. Our results show that maintaining habitat quality as a means of protecting tropical biodiversity is, by itself, insufficient,” Dr. Jesse F. Abrams, postdoc at the Leibniz-IZW and co-first author, said. According to Abrams, it’s more important to focus on what limited conservation efforts we have on reducing unsustainable and illegal hunting at the moment.

Nevertheless, the study also has some positive data.

"These results show that logging concessions can be safe havens for mammal and bird communities, particularly if sustainable forest management protocols are applied, following principles of forest certification standards,” Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini, Director of the Sabah Forestry Department, said.

tiger Amid the pandemic, zoos and national parks offer zoo cams for anyone who wants to virtually visit the animals and watch what they're doing. Image courtesy of Shutterstock