Wildlife uses and hunting patterns in rural communities of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Departamento de Ecología y Sistemática Terrestres, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Ap. 63, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas 29290, México
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2012, 8:38 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-8-38Published: 2 October 2012
Subsistence hunting is a traditional practice providing food and many other goods for households in the Yucatan Peninsula, southeast Mexico. Economic, demographic, and cultural change in this region drive wildlife habitat loss and local extinctions. Improving our understanding about current practices of wildlife use may support better management strategies for conserving game species and their habitat. We aimed to evaluate if wildlife use remained relevant for the subsistence of rural residents of the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as if local hunting practices were related to environmental, geographical, and cultural factors.
Fieldwork was done between March 2010 and March 2011. Information was obtained through conversations, interviews, and participant observation. Record forms allowed recording animals hunted, biomass extracted, distance intervals to hunting sites, habitat types and seasonality of wildlife harvests. Data were analyzed using one-way Analysis of Variance, and Generalized Linear Models.
Forty-six terrestrial vertebrate species were used for obtaining food, medicine, tools, adornments, pets, ritual objects, and for sale and mitigating damage. We recorded 968 animals taken in 664 successful hunting events. The Great Curassow, Ocellated Turkey, paca, white-tailed deer, and collared peccary were the top harvested species, providing 80.7% of biomass (10,190 kg). The numbers of animals hunted and biomass extracted declined as hunting distances increased from villages. Average per capita consumption was 4.65 ± 2.7 kg/person/year. Hunting frequencies were similar in forested and agricultural areas.
Wildlife use, hunting patterns, and technologies observed in our study sites were similar to those recorded in previous studies for rural Mayan and mestizo communities in the Yucatan Peninsula and other Neotropical sites. The most heavily hunted species were those providing more products and by-products for residents. Large birds such as the Great Curassow and the Ocellated Turkey were extremely important for local hunters, representing around 40% of total prey taken.
Our results suggest that hunting is frequent in our study areas. Low human densities allow low hunting pressure on most game species and favor conservation of the tropical forest. We suggest that co-management may help regulating hunting, prioritizing cultural practices of sustainable use and conservation for benefiting local users and animal populations.