Why hunt: the socio-ecological drivers and ecological consequences of bat hunting in an Afrotropical system

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2023-12

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Abstract

Anthropogenic activities continue to imperil species globally, with overexploitation as a leading cause of extinction. The need for evidence-based conservation interventions is increasingly urgent as human disturbance pushes species toward extinction across the tropics. To mitigate these impacts, it is critical to understand the socio-ecological drivers and their specific effects. Hunting of cave-dwelling Egyptian fruit bats in southern Nigeria exemplifies these complex dynamics. This dissertation takes an interdisciplinary approach to diagnosing the complex socio-ecological dynamics surrounding bat hunting and consumption in southern Nigeria. It integrates perspectives from ecology, conservation, and behavioral science to provide a systems analysis. Chapter 1 introduces the intense hunting of the cave-dwelling Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) in southeast Nigeria, highlighting conservation concerns. Chapter 2 quantifies hunting pressure across caves and models the drivers of cave use. Findings show hunting pressure alters cave bat distributions, with implications for populations and zoonotic spillover risks. A hunting threshold is identified beyond which bats abandon caves. Chapter 3 reveals a bat-hunting apprenticeship system influencing community norms and self-efficacy of hunters, suggesting that economic motivations alone do not fully explain hunting. Social learning and leader opinions strongly shape participation. Chapter 4 applies the Theory of Planned Behavior to identify key drivers of bat meat consumption intentions. Taste preferences and community leaders' influence most strongly predict intentions. Overall, this dissertation provides a model for diagnosing multifaceted exploitation dynamics across taxa. By highlighting the sociocultural dimensions of hunting practices, this work contributes to a nuanced understanding of conservation challenges and calls for an integrated approach to wildlife management in Afrotropical systems.


Embargo status: Restricted until 01/2027. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.

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Keywords

hunting apparatus, Rousettus aegyptiacus, Bat hunting, Apprenticeship, Structural Equation Model, One Health, cave roost, Bat conservation

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