Wildlife Consumption by Indigenous Communities in Kerala and its Implications for Conservation in the Western Ghats
Wildlife Information Liaison Development Society
Sethu Parvathy, Arun Kanagavel And Rajeev Raghavan
Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?
Globally, wild meat provides for 20% of the rural diet and the value of wild meat is rooted within culture like in North-east India where it is a dowry item. The dependence on wildlife has currently become commodious. This utilization is not only entangled with the threat for biodiversity but also with the impact on the livelihoods of communities who subsist on this. There is a lack of understanding about the subsistence use of wildlife by indigenous communities in India.
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?
This study was undertaken at all the 5 forest circles in Kerala that were a part of the Western Ghats. The specific sites within these circles were selected opportunistically and the respondents within the indigenous communities were either selected opportunistically or through targeted sampling with the assistance of local informants. To understand the extent of wild meat consumption, a questionnaire was undertaken face-to-face with respondents who were requested to detail the type of wild meat consumed, frequency of consumption, rationale and the hunting method used. Their socio-economic characteristics and details of local domestic meat markets and whether wild meat was sold or bought were also enquired. All statistical analysis was undertaken using the statistical package SPSS 11.5 for Windows. To understand which factors influenced the consumption of wild meat a multinomial logistic regression was undertaken.
Results: What are your most important results?
50 species/taxa of wild fauna were consumed at an average of 24 species/taxa per respondent who more frequently consumed wild sourced fish, Travancore tortoise, monitor lizard and wild boar. Mostly non-gunpowder based weapons were used to collect wild meat, which was more associated with protein sustenance and traditional medicine than as an income source. Land-ownership, gender and distance of settlement from market were found to influence wild meat consumption.
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?
In most parts of India, large mammals and birds are the most hunted while our results reveal that the communities in Kerala preferred small-sized animals. This could be from the neglect of law enforcement towards lesser-priority species and that these animals are easier to catch. Common species with large distributions, associated with indigenous culture could be allowed for use, to integrate culture into conservation while preparing a safe list for species and sites.